How consumer sentiment has changed throughout 2020

25 November 2020 4 min. read

At the end of the first lockdown, the majority of UK consumers had one key priority on their minds: visiting those nearest and dearest to them. According to a new study, more superficial activities like returning to pubs, restaurants and barbers were put on hold, as first and foremost people sought to reconnect with those they had been distanced from throughout the spring.

During the second quarter of 2020, a study from CIL Management Consultants polled 2,000 people across Britain on their changing attitudes relating to the coronavirus lockdown. At the time, the vast majority said they were most looking forward to visiting friends and family after lock-down measures eased. Around 80% of respondents said it was at least a high priority, while of that 55% said it was top priority.

As the nation once again faces a prolonged set of restrictions to curb the spiralling number of new Covid-19 cases, CIL has returned to this data to find out if respondents behaved as they had expected to. With regards to their top priority, it is safe to say that they did. In the end, 61% of people said they had actually prioritised seeing friends and family first – more than the 55% who had actuFally listed it as a top priority earlier in 2020.

What did you do when the measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 were eased

When it came to other activities, however, CIL found that many consumers were significantly less enthusiastic that expected about certain activities when restrictions were drawn back. According to the firm’s latest figures, while around 46% said they would be heading straight to the hairdressers for an over-due trim post-lockdown, around 29% of consumers said they actually ended up prioritising this.

Meanwhile, the category most expected to be third priority fell dramatically down the list. While 37% of consumers spent lockdown fantasising about a first trip to the pub since March, only 18% of them acted on these impulses when given the chance. This actually made the visit to the local watering hole less popular than going to a restaurant, visiting a café, or doing home or garden renovations – all of which were expected to be much lower on the agenda.

Alongside home renovations, the only other activities which met or surpassed their expectations in terms of popularity were going to the vets, and going to the doctors. Outside essential activities, then, no sector saw demand come close to recovering from the lockdown.

What do you think will be your biggest permanent change moving forward?

Most alarmingly for the beleaguered travel industry, customers were even less forth-coming than expected during lockdown, with overseas holidays only being a top priority for 20% of people as of April, and dropping to just 7% in November. Booking a holiday in the UK was also less popular than expected, but still saw more uptake than going abroad, with 11% of consumers saying it had been a priority.

The entertainment sector also endured a torrid post-lockdown period. Without equivalents of the “eat out to help out” campaign to help recover punters, cinemas were less than half as popular as expected earlier in the year, while other forms of entertainment also dropped by 3%.

Future intent

The next key question challenged how behaviours might further change in the future. What do consumers plan to do more or less of in a post-Covid-19 world? CIL’s starkest finding this time was that the reality of long-term, infection-reducing measures appears to be hitting home.

Intent to work from home has increased in the firm’s November research, rising from 23% to 33%. This reflects a growing trend in human resources, which has seen many workers enjoy better work-life balance, and increased productivity while working from home, meaning they intend to continue doing so even after the pandemic recedes.


At the same time, beyond shopping online for all manner of goods and services, consumers are also converging on a host of subscription services across all consumer categories. Having only stood at 1% during April, now 23% of respondents intend to watch television or movies through a media platform like Netflix. Health and wellness from home are also higher on the agenda, with determination to exercise from a gym noticeably falling by 9%, while close to 30% of respondents still intend to work out at home.

Some services have also managed to notably tap into this intent to do things from home. While eating and drinking out have continued to be less of a priority since Covid-19, meal kit businesses have tapped into the desire of consumers to cook at home by providing them with pre-packed beginner guides to new and tasty dinners. The accelerated growth seen in this kind of business suggests that it is potentially here to stay, even after the end of the pandemic.