Even If America Reopened Tomorrow, Most Shoppers Say They Would Stay Home

Polled consumers share hesitations on returning to their everyday routines

two hands holding a white paper sign that says #I Stay At Home
As businesses wonder when to reopen, they might also need to consider if consumers will even come back. Getty Images
Headshot of Robert Klara

At a time when select areas of the country are experimenting with varying stages of letting businesses reopen, a new poll suggests that many brands are facing a challenge they may not have considered before: Even if a region reopens for business, will shoppers accustomed to living life locked down be willing to come out and shop?

A new poll suggests that answer is, for now, no.

According to a survey released Friday by research firm Ipsos, 64% of Americans say that reopening the country right now is “not worth it” because more lives are likely to be lost owing to increased transmission of Covid-19. The respondents who feel that way skew heavily Democratic (92%) and are majority non-white (84%) and female (72%.)

But most distressing for businesses is the finding that even if the country were to somehow miraculously open its doors for business tomorrow, a large swath of consumers would not visit stores.

Questioned about the likelihood of engaging in various activities outside their homes if social distancing mandates were relaxed, Americans expressed a willingness to return to the office by a margin of 77%. Yet only 24% said they’d chance going to a movie theater, and only 30% would stay at a hotel.

Consumers seemed to warm up a little more toward other types of commerce, however, even if the idea didn’t make them enthusiastic. Forty-four percent reported that they would eat out at a restaurant, and a little more than half (51%) said they’d get a haircut.

Interestingly, these averaged figures do not reflect the sharp partisan divide among the respondents, but when breaking it down further, there does appear to be a gap in preferences. For example, only 26% of those who identify as Democrats said they would eat at a restaurant, but 64% of Republicans said they would. And while 40% of Democrats would venture out to a hair salon for a much-needed trim, 74% of Republicans would gladly do it.

The results of the Ipsos poll, conducted on behalf of ABC News, also suggest that even though shelter-in-place mandates have succeeded in stalling the spread of the novel coronavirus in many parts of the country, Americans have been wary about resuming normal activities for a while now.

A Gallup poll released on April 1, for example, found that only 14% of Americans felt ready to resume normal day-to-day activities, with 42% indicating they’d rather wait until the number of new Covid-19 cases “declines significantly” before they’d be OK with getting back to their routines.

More recently, a Pew Center poll released on April 16 found that 66% of Americans feared that their state governments will lift restrictions too quickly, and 73% believed that, when it came to the Covid-19 infection rate, the “worst is still to come.”

@UpperEastRob robert.klara@adweek.com Robert Klara is a senior editor, brands at Adweek, where he specializes in covering the evolution and impact of brands.