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William Blair poll finds plans to cruise in time, though over 60s lag

In its weekly survey of consumer sentiment, William Blair found some positive news for the cruise industry.

500 US consumers polled

The brokerage surveys 500 US consumers to measure current behavior while assessing pent-up demand and how coronavirus fears might impact a recovery across various sectors.

The Weekly Consumer Pulse activity choices include, among others: Buy clothes in a store, dine in at a restaurant, drink an iced or hot coffee beverage at a restaurant or café, go to a fitness club/studio, buy a car (new or used), travel domestically, travel internationally and — newly added this week — take a cruise.

The survey tracks behaviors like what people have done in the past week, what they miss most, and what they plan to do in the next month, the next three months, the next six months and next year.

'Our addition of “take a cruise” to the survey yielded some positive news for the beleaguered cruise industry, seeming to indicate little discernible permanent impairment in consumers’ eyes despite unrelenting negative news flow, largely due to above-average favorable responses for the under-29 age group,' William Blair said in a note.

Below-average results for over-60 crowd

'Of concern, however, are meaningfully below-average results for the over-60 crowd, with fewer than 2% indicating likelihood of taking a cruise in the next six months. Such a result could threaten not only senior travel but also the trend of multigenerational travel that has benefited the cruise industry in recent years,' the brokerage added.

Its question about future consumer behavior concerning taking a cruise yielded these results: In the next three months: 3.1%, next six months: 5.6% and next year: 61.5%.

'Worry index' unchanged

The survey found that despite media beginning to shift the conversation toward a reopening of the country, the 'worry index' remains unchanged, with an average of 6.7 (on a scale of 1 to 10) — exactly the same as last week.

The region comprising New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania ranks as the most worried (7.5) and posted the greatest increase in the worry index versus last week, William Blair found. The upper Midwest (Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Wisconsin) ranked as the least worried at 6.3 along with the mountain region (Idaho, and Montana down through Arizona and New Mexico), the latter of which posted the steepest decline in worry relative to last week.

Return to normalcy pushed out six months

While some modest week-over-week increases occurred in an anticipated return to dine-in restaurants and in-store apparel sales over the next month, William Blair said it appears much of the survey’s gauge for a return to normalcy has been pushed out to six months, with virtually every category down from last week’s survey in anticipated activity in the next three months.

Here again, regional dispersion is material, the brokerage noted, with the Northeast lagging in anticipated activity while the North Central (North Dakota/Minnesota down through Kansas/Missouri) is by far the most optimistic, with response rates on expected activities over the next three months (such as in-restaurant dining, fitness clubs, travel) 70% to 110% ahead of those in the Northeast.

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