Springing Back to Normal? Planned Spending Signals Cautious Optimism Amid Vaccine Rollout

More Americans plan to embrace non-essential spending for items like apparel and fast food this coming spring.

A recent study by The Harris Poll on behalf of Ad Age finds that, by and large, consumers are planning to stay the course with their spending this spring, but they’re feeling confident about shopping in-store, traveling, and buying cars.

Overall, a large majority (72%) of consumers said they will spend about the same or less than they did last spring, and 74% said they will spend about the same or less than they did this winter. Higher-income Americans, however, were more likely to be gearing up for a spending spree: 30% of those with a household north of $100,000 said they plan to spend more compared to last spring, and 28% in this income range said they plan to spend more compared to this winter.

It’s clear, one way or the other, that the current rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine has had an impact on spending: 53% of consumers overall said the vaccine rollout has had at least “some influence” on their planned spending for spring 2021. This effect was even more pronounced with consumers in high-income households — those bringing in $100,000 or more per year — 61% of whom said the vaccine rollout has influenced how much they plan to spend come spring.

When it comes to where and how American will be spending their money this spring, it looks like a lot of it will happen in stores. Most consumers (62%) plan to shop in-store at least once a week this spring, and parents with kids at home are the most likely to be planning frequent in-store outings — 71% of Americans with children under 18 said they’ll be shopping in-store weekly.

In-store shopping is only the beginning though. Travel also appears primed for an imminent comeback, especially among high-income earners and consumers in their late 30s and early 40s. Thirty-five percent of consumers overall plan to travel out of town this summer, and 43% of consumers in households with $100,000 or more in annual income say they have the same plan. Consumers aged 35 to 44 are also looking forward to travel, with 40% reporting plans for out-of-town trips this summer.

The survey shows Americans also have their eyes on cars, meaning car dealers may be looking at a summer sales rush. One-third (34%) of consumers say they plan to buy a new or used car in the next six months, and younger consumers especially are driving this trend: 45% of consumers aged 18-34 and over half (54%) of consumers aged 35-44 plan to buy a car in this timeframe.

This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of Ad Age during February 23-25, 2021, among 2,032 U.S. adults ages 18 and older. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online. For more information on methodology, please contact Dami Rosanwo.

Download full data here.