The Big Thaw: COVID-19 Consumer pulse survey report | Spring 2021

Consumer reservations temper a bullish outlook.

Scott Rankin

Scott Rankin

US Strategy Service Line Leader, Deal Advisory & Strategy, KPMG LLP

+1 617-988-1474

Matt Kramer

Matt Kramer

National Sector Leader, Consumer & Retail, KPMG LLP

+1 614-241-4666

Julia Wilson

Julia Wilson

Principal, Advisory Strategy and ESG, KPMG US

+1 404-222-3511

In March 2021, KPMG polled 1000 consumers across the U.S. to learn about the continuing economic impact of COVID-19, consumer sentiment reservation around economic recovery, implications of work from home, and vaccine impact on travel.

As the U.S. economy heats up, consumers respond—cautiously.

Conditioned by 14 months of sobering economic and health news, household financial impact, and workplace and schooling restrictions, consumers are responding with both optimism and wariness.

Improved household outlooks, but reservations about general economic recovery

The percentage reporting negative economic impact on their household has come down from a year ago, but more than a quarter say full U.S. economic recovery will take more than two years.



In our Spring 2021 survey, only 14 percent of consumers said they expect economic recovery from COVID-19 within 6 months. A year ago, when lockdowns were first enacted, 17 percent of survey respondents expected recovery within 6 months.



Twenty-seven percent of consumers we surveyed in March expect economic recovery to take 2 years or more. This percentage is up significantly from a year ago, when only 17% expected to wait 2 or more years for recovery.


Cognitive dissonace: Spending is up, along with long-term uncertainty.

For the first time in a year, consumers report increases in spending across both discretionary and essential retail. Sentiments about the eventual return of pre-COVID spending levels are mixed.

Vaccinations impact travel and social behavior. Demographics matter more.

Consumers who’ve gotten at least one shot plan to travel and participate in social gatherings much more than their unvaccinated peers through Memorial Day, with significant variations by age cohort.

Plans for Spring travel by generation and vaccination status


Notes:  (a)  KPMG conducted two surveys of 1,000 consumers across the United States and they were asked the questions, “Have you received the COVID-19 vaccination?”, “Are you planning any travel this Spring?” (b) "*Vaccinated" includes survey respondents who have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccination. (c) Age ranges for each generation as follows: Gen Z = 9-24; Millennial = 25-40; Gen X = 41-56; Baby Boomer + = 57+

Sources:  (1)  KPMG Consumer survey, fielded March 2021

The KPMG consumer pulse survey series explores key, emerging themes around consumer behaviors, purchasing patterns and the economy. Each survey asks 1,000 U.S. consumers, representing all demographics, timely questions about upcoming purchases and economic conditions. We conduct the surveys to help our clients understand consumers, uncover the signals of permanent change and create basis for transforming their businesses to meet customers where they are.

The Big Thaw: COVID-19 Consumer pulse survey report | Spring 2021
Consumer reservations temper a bullish outlook.