Consumer Focus on Home and Health Is Enduring

Spending habits developed during lockdowns have strong staying power, our survey shows


Coronavirus has transformed numerous aspects of daily life. Many of us focused more attention on wellness and discovered everything from baking to Tolstoy.

We also spent much more on groceries, exercise equipment, and home entertainment systems. That trend looks set to continue notwithstanding an uptick this summer in spending on travel and restaurants, according to a four-nation survey by the Oliver Wyman Forum. 

Sizable net percentages of respondents in Brazil, China, the United Kingdom, and the United States say they have increased spending on a range of domestically consumed items compared with pre-COVID levels. And in almost all of those categories – which include groceries, household supplies and furnishings, telephone and internet service, and books and streaming services –  more than half of those consumers expect those higher spending patterns to continue a year from now.   

The attitude of Chinese respondents stands out in this comparison, and may provide a broader indication of likely consumer behavior as the pandemic recedes. The country has imposed significantly fewer COVID-19 restrictions over the past year than the other nations, yet Chinese consumers in most cases say they expect to spend more on home-related items in a year’s time than their counterparts in the other countries.

By contrast, the share of Chinese consumers who expect to spend less in 12 months’ time on restaurant dining, entertainment, and leisure travel is greater than the number who cut back on such spending over the past year. That is significant in a country where most restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues are operating without any restrictions. It suggests that as the pandemic recedes, consumers who prioritized home life because of COVID-19 will likely continue with those habits.

In Brazil, the UK, and the US, consumers on balance say they expect to spend more on these outside-the-home activities than they did before the pandemic. That suggests pent up demand to get out and socialize after long lockdowns. Consumers cut back sharply over the last year in Brazil and the UK, and restrictions on gatherings in English pubs, clubs, and concert venues were lifted only in late July. Yet the signal from Chinese consumers suggests that increased demand for dining out and traveling may be modest, or fleeting.

One area finds broad agreement among consumers: healthcare. Spending increased almost across the board on physical and mental health during the pandemic, and respondents in all four countries expect to be spending more in both areas 12 months from now. After a pandemic that has claimed nearly 5 million lives around the world and disrupted countless more, self-care may be one of the more enduring trends to emerge.

Avi Solomon contributed to this article.