The response to COVID-19 is altering American life. Social distancing, working remotely, when possible, and the shift of education from public schools to the privacy of living rooms and kitchen tables is the strange, new normal.
To better understand the effects of the pandemic on consumer habits and attitudes, Cotton Incorporated posed a series of questions to 500 U.S. consumers through an online survey on March 20, 2020.
The responses are largely unsurprising: the majority of consumers are very concerned; some are spending more time shopping online; paying more attention to the news; spending more time on social media; and there is an increased interest in comfort, from food to apparel. But, as the fabric of American life changes, cotton remains The Fabric Of Our Lives.
Consumers are concerned
According to the survey, 66 % of consumers say that they are “very afraid these days,” with more women (72 %) than men (57 %) expressing fear. Personal concern increased with age, with a majority of consumers forty-five years and older saying they are very concerned with the current pandemic (56 %), followed by those 25 – 44 (40 %) and 14 – 24 (18 %).
Comfort helps consumers cope
As a result of the crisis, 71 % of consumers say that they are watching more television; 67.2 % say they are consuming more news; 62.8 % claim they are wearing comfortable clothes more often; and 52.4 % say that they eating more comfort food/snacks.
Consumer spending reactions vary
According to survey responses: 35.8 % of consumers are spending more or significantly more money than they were before the crisis; roughly 30 % of consumers (30.4 %) say they are spending about the same amount of money; and slightly more than one-third of respondents (33.9 %) claim to be spending less.
Most consumers shopping online the same amount
When asked whether they were spending more, less, or about the same amount of time shopping online, most consumers (46.1 %) stated their online shopping was about the same as before the crisis; nearly 32 % claimed they were shopping more online; and 14.5 % responded they were shopping less. Among those consumers shopping less online, 61.1 % cited concerns about their personal economies as the motivation.
Online shopping felt “safer” to 58.9 % of respondents, with 48.1 % citing the closing of brick-and-mortar outlets as the reason for increased online shipping. Beyond practicality, 46.2 % of consumers cited more free time as a reason for increased online shopping, and more than half (56.3%) of respondents cited that online shopping was “fun” or something to do.
Consumers focus on staples during crisis
Consumer responses reveal that more money is being allocated to groceries (57%); household supplies such as toilet paper and cleaning supplies (47.6%); online services (26%); and local food delivery services (26%).
Consumers interested in natural & comfortable textiles
Thirty-three percent of respondents claimed to be browsing or purchasing textiles, such as apparel and bedding, during the crisis. Browsing interest was high for natural fibers (84.1%); clothing and textiles made for comfort (84.1%), clothing and textiles that are durable (81.1%), and easy-care clothing and textiles (79.9%).
From a category perspective, the browsing of activewear/athleticwear (78.7%) and sleepwear/loungewear (75%) had a high purchase ratio; with 39.6% of consumers saying they had made purchases from those categories. More than 84% of surveyed consumers claimed to look for apparel made for comfort, with nearly 46% claiming to have purchased such an item. Over 60% of consumers stated they are wearing more casual or active/athletic wear during the crisis.
Consumers choose cotton for comfort and safety
When asked to identify the source fibers and fabrics for comfortable apparel, cotton ranked highest among 69.6 % of respondents. Spandex was viewed a distant second by 27.2 % of respondents; followed by polyester (22.5 %), wool (17.2 %), and rayon/viscose (15.6 %).
When asked to rate the safety of fibers from a hypoallergenic standpoint, the rankings were similar: cotton was perceived as very safe by 55.4 % of respondents; spandex by 27.8 %; polyester by 23.2 %; wool by 20 %; and rayon/viscose by 17.4 %.
Cotton Incorporated, funded by U.S. cotton producers and importers of cotton and cotton textile products, conducts worldwide research and promotion activities to increase the demand for and profitability of cotton.