In a blog post, Steve Markenson, director, research & insights at FMI, remarks that Labor Day typically denotes a return to normalcy as summer vacations end, kids return to school and adults resume their daily work lives. Normalcy has become a relative term since COVID-19 hit the U.S. last year. There was certainly nothing approaching what we once considered normal following Labor Day 2020, and there is no sign of its impending return this year, either.
FMI’s latest “U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends Tracker: Back to School/Back to Office” shows that more than half of Americans are very or extremely concerned about the spread of the virus and what variants could come next.
While vaccinated individuals can take some comfort from having added protection, many express legitimate concerns about indoor shopping and eating environments. Consumers know, based on roughly 18 months of evidence, that open spaces, masks and social distancing measures help to thwart the spread of COVID-19. That means that many who have increased the percentage of purchases made online are likely to continue doing so and many restaurant patrons will choose takeout or outdoor dining rather than asking to be seated indoors.
Half of those surveyed believe that their current shopping behavior is what will pass for normal for the time being with another third not expecting a return to something resembling pre-pandemic normal until next year. One-sixth are more optimistic and expect life to go back to what it once was between now and the end of the year.
The group most likely to expect a shift toward normalcy this fall are parents with school-age children. About one-third fully expect that school life will normalize between the start of school and the end of 2021.
Parents are, in fact, twice as likely to believe that a sense of stability will return, not only to school, but other parts of their lives over the next several months. Sending kids to school has become a reality even for parents who have reservations about their unvaccinated children going back to the classroom. Vaccinations are not yet approved for children under the age of 12 and only about 25 percent of kids between 12 and 15 have received both shots of the two-dose vaccines on the market, according to a U.S. News & World Report article.