Why Shoppers Are Changing Their Labor Day Plans

Rise of the Delta variant impacting planned celebrations, gatherings
Gina Acosta, Progressive Grocer
Why Shoppers Are Changing Their Labor Day Plans Numerator
In June, 64% of consumers said that they planned to grill/barbecue for Labor Day; by August, grilling plans saw a significant decline to 45% of consumers.

The rise of the Delta variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 is causing consumers to change their plans for celebrating Labor Day, particularly in the southern United States.

According to a consumer sentiment survey conducted by Numerator, a Chicago-based data and tech company serving the market research space, consumer concern about COVID affecting Labor Day has doubled in two months: In June, 8% of consumers expected COVID to have a significant impact on Labor Day celebration plans, and that number jumped to 16% in August. Those expecting no impact from COVID fell from 44% in June to 38% in August.

In June, 42% of consumers claimed that they were somewhat or significantly more excited about Labor Day than in prior (pre-COVID) years. That dropped to 27% in August.

Consumers have adjusted their Labor Day celebration plans away from plans involving others:

  • Plans to celebrate Labor Day with family and friends dropped from 64% in June to 51% in August. That decline was more pronounced among vaccinated consumers (down 17 points) than among those who don't plan to get the vaccine (down six points). Consumers in the South saw the biggest drop in plans to gather with family and friends, down from two-thirds to fewer than half of consumers (66% in June vs. 48% in August). Consumers in the Northeast saw the smallest decline, down only seven points (59% in June versus 52% in August).
  • Grilling and barbecuing saw big declines: In June 2021, 64% of consumers said that they planned to grill/barbecue for Labor Day, only a slight decrease from pre-pandemic years (67% of respondents). By August 2021, grilling plans saw a significant decline to 45% of consumers.
  • Celebration methods such as traveling, going out for food/drinks, and attending public events/festivals saw modest decreases from June to August (down three points, two points and three points, respectively), but were already well below their pre-pandemic levels as of June 2021.
  • Ordering takeout food/drinks was the only celebration method that grew from June (8% of consumers) to August (9%).

When it comes to shopping for Labor Day celebrations, both categories and retail channels are seeing the impacts of shifting consumer behavior:

  • Click-and-collect will benefit from consumers' plans to stay home: More consumers are now planning to avoid going in-store for their Labor Day supplies, with 13% of consumers saying they'll order via click-and-collect, up from 8% in June.
  • Grilling materials (e.g., utensils, charcoal, etc.) saw the most significant declines among tracked categories. In previous years, nearly half of consumers (47%) said that they purchased grilling materials for Labor Day. In June, 37% of consumers planned to purchase grilling materials; this fell to 31% in August.
  • With fewer consumers planning to celebrate with a group, traditional "party" categories also showed declines from June to August, including desserts (down six points), decorations (down three points), and side dishes, festive apparel, and sporting goods/outdoor games (each down two points).
  • The categories that saw upticks from June to August were fruits and vegetables (up six points), snacks (up four points) and alcohol (up one point).

The survey of 1,000-plus Numerator panelists was conducted in June and August waves to understand the Delta variant. See all the data here.

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