Consumers are living through an anxious time, caught in a double-pronged crisis encompassing personal health and safety and financial wellbeing.

According to Deloitte’s latest “State of the Consumer” tracker, the anxiety levels experienced by South Africans surpasses the global average, with the biggest concerns locally around finances – even ahead of the health impact of Covid. Covid began as a health pandemic and has now transformed into a full-blown financial crisis around the world. The longer that Covid plays out, the longer these anxiety levels will persist.

These are among the findings of a study conducted by the Deloitte Consumer Industry Center to better understand the interplay between personal safety and economic vulnerability as a driver of consumer behaviour and purchase decisions as economies reopen. The objective of the survey is to drive long-term global conversations around the powerful forces shaping consumer behaviour by exploring trends over time.

The big take-out:

The at-home economy is likely to persist even after the pandemic.

The study found that while anxiety levels are declining in most regions, India, Chile, SA, Italy and Ireland all reported rising anxiety levels, with consumers in these countries reporting that their anxiety had increased in the last week. Indian consumers were 27% more anxious, followed by SA at 12%.

By contrast, anxiety levels declined by at least 10% in the US, the UK and Japan. Covid remains the primary anxiety driver in the markets surveyed, except in SA, where financial concerns take precedence. Three-quarters of SA respondents said financial stress is the main driver of anxiety, while 58% also listed Covid as a concern.

In SA, 65% of consumers reported feeling anxious about personal wellbeing, while 79% said they are anxious about their family’s health. More than half of consumers – 55% – are delaying making large purchases while 45% are worried about upcoming payments. At the same time, 56% of consumers are worried about losing their jobs, and a third are worried about returning to work.

Post-pandemic, consumers indicate that they are likely to continue their cocooning activities, which means retailers and businesses in the hospitality sector need to think creatively about how they adopt a more integrated model to cater to the at-home economy.

Speaking at the Deloitte “State of the Consumer” tracker webinar recently, Massmart CEO Mitch Slape confirmed that more consumers – particularly at lower LSM levels – have become more dependent on pay cycles. He added that Massmart stores have seen reduced foot count but increased basket sizes, with customers zeroing in on value, price and quality. 


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