Outlook for Consumer Sentiment Is Mostly Sunny

Optimism is high or rising in most major economies, but a few clouds dot the horizon. That’s a welcome forecast for a pandemic-weary world.

After more than a year in which the coronavirus has inundated countries around the world with waves of infection, the outlook in developed countries looks decidedly brighter. Yet differences persist that could affect the strength and durability of recovery in each country.

During the pandemic, the Oliver Wyman Forum has taken the pulse of consumer sentiment in 10 major countries and asked people how they thought their overall well-being would change over the next 12 months. The responses fall into three camps.

First, the budding optimists. This group, led by Spain and including other European countries and the United States, shows a significant increase between August 2020 and April 2021 in the net percentage of respondents who expect their overall well-being to improve over the coming year.

That’s unlikely to be a coincidence. All six countries suffered multiple deadly waves of infection, beginning with Italy in March 2020, but the virus is receding, governments are lifting lockdown restrictions, and economic activity is recovering, albeit at varying speeds.

The second group are steady as she goes. Mexico, China, and Brazil all show high and mostly stable levels of optimism. That’s somewhat striking considering their vastly different pandemic experiences. The virus started in China but the country effectively suppressed it with strict containment measures while Brazil and Mexico have recorded the most COVID deaths after the United States and India.

Australia sits in a class of its own. The percentage of people expecting their well-being to get worse increased while the number expecting it to get better declined. While the country’s strict quarantine policies have kept COVID infections and deaths at some of the lowest levels in the developed world, it’s possible Australia’s first recession in 30 years has depressed sentiment.

The takeaways? Many people are emerging from the crisis in very different places – emotionally, financially, and health-wise – than they inhabited a year and a half ago. Companies need to have a deep understanding of those changes as they look to re-engage with consumers and grow their businesses after the pandemic.