Consumer sentiment can be difficult to predict, and it often leaves companies waiting with baited breath. The events of this last year has been full of twists and turns and actions and reaction in order to arrive at a better place. CSG has been polling consumers’ sentiment for the last few years at critical junctures and the results were at times unexpected and volatile. Each one of our polls asked a unique question and all responses we received were interesting and a consistent theme became clear. People are exercising an abundance of caution during the recovery despite being ready to get back to shopping and eating out.

Trepidation is on the mind of most customers as we enter the home stretch to the holiday season. The early hope that everything would be fine by the end of the year has slipped away, yet there is still cautious optimism for the holidays. Last week we chronicled how several industries have bounced back from their severe 2020 revenue drops and how in some cases the industry has completely transformed. There is certainly a concern about the sudden financial dives and climbs of some industries although it is likely that most will regress to the mean over time. One of our most recent poll questions asked if restaurants will continue to grow after restrictions are lifted and a majority answered in the negative. A poll from May posed the question of a V-shaped recovery and it received a similar negative response. Shoppers seem unwilling to say that everything has been fixed or is improving and that makes sense in context. The emergence of the delta variant has brought back many restrictions from the previous year and we are still in a recovery phase.

The negative responses to recovery questions could be actually turn into a good thing over time. Customers still recognize the importance of traditional retailing and not everyone has bought into digital being the wave of the future. Questions about delivery only restaurants and automation replacing employees received surprising responses with respondents saying that ghost kitchens will be fewer in number and that we still need people working. This cautious optimism was on full display when we had back-to-back polls asking about the importance of tradeshows. On one hand respondents said that the majority of their prospects come from these events; however, on the other hand they also felt that it was better to reschedule or make them virtual in order to be safe.

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