Posted: 25 Aug. 2020 4 min. read

Waiting for something better

Feelings of safety around going to the store or to work have stalled—but hope remains


Our most recent Deloitte State of the Consumer Tracker drew from thousands of consumers surveyed in 18 countries, in a snapshot captured from 4-8 August, 2020. And while the biggest takeaway may be how little movement has taken place, there are subtleties to draw upon.

  • The global consumer is divided on feelings of anxiety—and not moving significantly in one direction or the other. As if the globe was split into emotional hemispheres, half the countries surveyed said they were less anxious—and the other half said they were more worried. As you might expect, these feelings track with a sense about the virus; in both Belgium and Australia, an uptick in reports of cases correlated with feelings of anxiety.
  • “Going to the store” is a mirror image of this anxiety statistic—and has hit a ceiling. With only 49% of consumers feeling safe to step out for essentials, the everyday routines that drove economies can no longer be counted upon. And this number seems to have hit a ceiling, rarely edging past this halfway mark. Is this pointing to divergent opinions on the pandemic itself
  • After many weeks of gradual improvement throughout April and into June, greater feelings of safety have stalled. For over two months, there was steady, if inconsistent, pulse upward. Yet in our two most recent surveys, this shift to certainty has plateaued between 48% and 57% in the UK, US, Germany, and China. And while feelings of safety around going to work are generally higher in these countries than a trip to the store, they, too have become stagnant. Has the so-called “new normal” created a byproduct of “wait and see”—a “new ambiguous”?
  • As the equation of safety and finances has not moved, so discretionary spending is in limbo as well. As uncertainty reigns, so necessities have once again been prioritized as consumers appear to put off purchases which are not immediately required.

The most striking set of statistics for me personally was to peer into the data and see how my fellow European consumers answered questions regarding the month of August when many of us traditionally take time off. I looked at the data for the European countries covered by our tracker, looking at travel, or categories associated with going on holiday with friends and family—alcohol, restaurants, fuel for the car, even buying a book to read on the beach. Sadly, all the numbers were negative, with consumers throughout the continent seeming to imply that less of us would be heading to the beaches in Southern Europe or hiking in the Alps.

But I take hope in this. For to preserve resources now is to declare a better tomorrow. Even amidst these unsure times, there is a strong sense of hope that normality across all ecosystems will be back. And as we navigate this shift, I am sure each one us will develop resilience to emerge stronger in a better tomorrow.

At Deloitte we are confident that the future of “better normal” will emerge—and we will be here for you—to help you thrive in the new future.

To learn more about the Deloitte State of the Consumer Tracker, visit the page to gain timely insights on the state of the consumer. The results from these continuous bi-weekly surveys will examine the underlying drivers of shifts in consumer behavior as people confront potential waves of COVID-19 resurgence and its long-term impact on the global economy. 

To learn more about food systems and the impact of COVID-19, see Deloitte’s report, A Shock to the food system: Lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Key contact

Leon Pieters

Leon Pieters

Global Consumer Industry Leader

Leon Pieters is the Consumer Industry leader for Deloitte Global. In this role he has responsibility for overseeing Deloitte Global’s four consumer sectors: Automotive; Consumer Products; Retail, Wholesale & Distribution (RWD); and Transportation, Hospitality & Services (THS). Leon is charged with setting the overall strategic direction and go-to-market strategy for the practice. Currently a consulting partner in the Netherlands firm, Leon has more than 18 years of experience working with large multinationals, especially in the food & beverage space, on strategy & transformation projects across the major countries in Europe and in the United States. His key areas of expertise include supply chain strategy, operating models, process optimization, technology enablement and digital transformations. Leon is a sponsoring partner of the LGBT initiative (GLOBE) of Deloitte Netherlands and is a Board Member of Workplace Pride, the international organization for inclusiveness of LGBT employees in the workplace.