Monitor: Omicron not slowing down return to normal

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New Hope research reveals consumers are more ready than ever to return to stores, restaurants and other public venues, even as tidal wave of omicron variant sweeps country

Natural Products Industry Health Monitor, Dec. 16, 2021
 
As the world emerges, haltingly from COVID-19, new challenges emerge. In this feature, New Hope Network provides an ongoing update on those challenges and the opportunities they hold. Look for the Industry Health Monitor every other Friday to learn the major news that is affecting the natural products market immediately and the less obvious insights that could dictate where the market may struggle or thrive in the months to come.

While the omicron variant may be making previous waves of COVID-19 infections look tame in comparison, there is another “variant” that looks remarkable in New Hope Network’s latest consumer research.

We might call it the “oh, whatever” variant as consumers in a survey deployed this week say they are increasingly ready to go on with their lives. Perhaps accepting a common belief that omicron will be mild for them, consumers who were asked how ready they are to participate in public activities showed more willingness to engage in every single category than they were in May and November of 2020. Indeed, the results look very much like a classic stair-step progression.

Normal life, it appears, is not pausing its comeback for omicron.

A short attention span certainly isn’t a comorbidity, but it definitely looks like a factor in how willing people are to return to normal life. The results for non-essential shopping stand out, with 70% now ready to engage in some retail therapy. The appetite to visit restaurants and bars is also up. Note that both of these activities are optional and could be described as entertainment, and both outpace the more specific entertainment of going to the movies.

Going into a theater to see a movie, however, comes in ahead of air travel and gyms. It probably shouldn’t be surprising, however, that closed-in spaces such as airplanes and the sweaty, huff-and-puff of gyms look less appealing.

 

More interesting for the natural products industry, perhaps, is that consumers who identify as natural-channel shoppers are roughly even with non-natural shoppers across nearly every category. Non-natural shoppers may be more willing to engage in no-essential shopping and going out to restaurants and bars, but the biggest difference across any of the categories—air travel—sways in the other direction, with natural shoppers notably more ready to get in airplanes.

Nearly every other category is effectively the same.

 

For the natural products industry, the news is obvious: the march back to “normal life” continues unabated. There may be more Americans in the hospital with COVID-19 than ever before, but it looks like there might be more Americans shopping malls and restaurants than we’ve seen since the pandemic began.

The “oh, whatever” variant may be purely fiction, but the symptoms still look remarkably clear.

Note: The referenced surveys were fielded by New Hope Network NEXT Data and Insights team in May 2020, November 2020 and January 2021 to 1,000 consumers directionally representative of the U.S. adult population.

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