Consumer Behaviour and US Politics — COVID19 Week 9

Home burnout setting in?

Back in an April poll, most Americans indicated they were hesitant to return to pre-COVID-19 activities once the curve was flattened. However, mobility data is showing that most regions of America have started to back away from sheltering-at-home. In late April, the number of US counties that had over 50% of their population sheltering at home was 27; a month later, this was only 2 counties (Kings and Queens counties in New York). Foot traffic at counter-service-restaurants is recovering quickly, going up 7 points week over week, and now at above 90% of 2019 levels nationally. Foot traffic at sit-down-restaurants is growing as well, with traffic up 8 points w/w, but more depressed at 58% nationally. Foot traffic at bars remains the most heavily depressed at 40% of 2019 levels, but still growing, up 8 points w/w, and hampered by most states keeping bars closed longer than other locations as they re-open. Restaurant reservations remain heavily depressed (-100%) in northeast states like Massachusetts, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, but are recovering to above -70% in a handful of states including Texas, Alabama, Arizona, South Carolina, and Oklahoma.

Political ideology and the COVID consumer.

Political ideology seems to be a driving force in how quickly foot traffic and pre-COVID activities resume. RBC’s study of political ideology and outdoor activity metrics from Texas found that counties that voted Republican in 2016, had higher mobility at retail and recreation locations (90-103% of pre-COVID levels) than lower-risk counties (no prisons) that voted for the Democratic candidate. The prison county that voted for the Democratic candidate had lower retail and recreation activity (81%). Separately, a Stanford University study found that, even when controlling for the Democratic-leaning bias in urban areas, the difference between a high Republican vote share county and one with a low one resulted in up to a 19% increase in foot traffic to local businesses. This dynamic will likely create an uneven recovery across the US over the coming months, which will make it even tougher for companies to manage their supply chains, local assortment, and regional resourcing.

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