MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Are Americans ready to visit businesses as they re-open? A new survey from Bankrate.com finds that very few of us are comfortable spending much time in public.
According to that survey, only 35 percent of people say they are comfortable visiting local non-essential businesses, and more than half believe businesses are reopening too soon.
Also in that survey, 44 percent of households report the coronavirus pandemic has negatively impacted their spending.
All these numbers painting a gloomy picture for the economy’s near future.
“I feel like our survey may deliver a cold dose of reality with respect to the outlook of the economy, because, number one, we are finding that there is caution on the part of consumers about engaging in public, about going out to the stores they may have to put it in the past,” said Mark Hamrick, Senior Economic Analyst for Bankrate.com. “So I think that in the beginning stages of this process when we started just sort of coming to grips with the stay at home orders, there was a great hope that we could have a so-called V-shaped recovery, we go down quickly, we bounce back quickly."
But now, even with some hopeful signs on the vaccine front, Harmick said it is still tough.
"I think it’s going to be incumbent upon people to remain attentive to their emergency savings, and that means really trying to buckle down, have a monthly budget, keep an eye on your spending, perhaps illuminate some things that are maybe seen as a luxury is it during a boon time, which we are not in right now, and it really comes full circle that the economy is in a recession right now and we don’t know how long it’s going to last.”
With just over one in three Americans who say they do feel comfortable going to local businesses, will it be enough for small businesses to survive?
“I think we will learn that as time goes on," Hamrick said. “I think my concern about that is that if a significant part of the population, however, you define that, is either unable or unwilling to reengage with businesses that they had in the past in public, that’s enough to basically throw a business off as planned.”
Hamrick said businesses don’t have to have 100 percent of customers not showing up to be ruined.
“If you have 20 percent who don’t show up, that could be a problem," Hamrick said.
And there’s the part about their financial capability.
"Many people are unemployed, many people have suffered economic or financial harm right now, so they may not have the financial wherewithal to spend as they would have before, even if they feel 100 percent confident,” Hamrick said.
That survey also found that those who are and are not ready to visit reopened businesses are split right along political party lines.
More than half of Republicans say they would be comfortable visiting reopened local businesses, compared to just 20 percent of Democrats. Three-quarters of Democrats think states are reopening businesses too soon, while only 35 percent of Republicans agree.
“This political polarization, that I think we’re all very much aware of in our country, they really did find a divide between Republicans and Democrats. Number one, with a respect to the willingness to re-engage in public and basically go outside their homes. Republicans are much more eager to do so, Democrats not so and I think this is kind of indicative of what we’ve been saying all across the country.
Hamrick said in some states, people are more readily complying with the stay at home orders, even though they may be suffering from cabin fever. In other states, Hamrick said people are flocking to the beaches and other places.
“One of the things I think has always been seen as one of the great strength of the United States has been the respect for individual liberty, kind of almost to the point where we prioritize the rights of the individual above the needs as a society. This is a situation where this is very much coming into fore, meaning that we are seeing some people have an active debate about whether the rights of the individual are outranked by that society when it comes time to lock things down and try to protect the Public Health.”