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This month on Lockdown Unlocked we’ve been taking a look at what impact the vaccine roll out is likely to have on the consumer mindset. Are we going to see people desperate to get out and about, or will we remain cautious and continue with many of our new lockdown behaviours? 

Findings in this report are combined from our 1000 person nat-rep quant survey, and our 40 person online community

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#1 Getting vaccinated isn’t making people more willing to get out and about

When we investigated the impact of receiving a vaccination on willingness to return to normality, we found those who have been vaccinated (either one or two jabs) seem to be more cautious rather than less. 

This was the case for more ‘everyday’ activities such as getting on public transport, and going to a restaurant - as well as broader activities such as getting on a plane or being in a crowd.

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Within our analysis, though, it is important to recognise that over two-thirds of the sample who have been vaccinated were over the age of 65 years, and across our study we have seen this group to be more cautious around COVID-19. 

However, when we focused on just the 65+ age group (and removed the potential age skew), a similar willingness trend was still evident. Willingness among the vaccinated group increased only for getting on a train or bus, with similar levels to their peers across other activities.

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So there’s a suggestion that a vaccination is not changing concerns - and there’s still a significant level of nervousness about getting back to normal even once vaccinated.

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#2 Two jabs are better than one

Using data from the survey, we have also attempted to understand what effect vaccination will have on those who are currently unvaccinated in terms of their willingness to get out and about. 

To do this, we’ve had to ask about projected intentions for when one vaccination jab is received, and then again for when two have been received. We’ve taken this data and combined it with willingness data for those who have already received some level of vaccination to form a UK-wide picture.

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The clear answer is that one jab has a pretty limited effect in driving up willingness to do any of the tested activities - but two jabs sees a real spike in intention. There is a material increase in all five tested activities as can be seen above.

A crucial note, though, is that willingness to act still won’t be universal even once two jabs have been administered. As noted in the points that follow, there are still many barriers to normality which will take time to lift even once the mass have received protection.

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#3 Proceeding with caution

Taking into account the whole population (i.e. those vaccinated and those not) we can see that although the vaccination programme is generating a feeling of optimism, this is balanced with a cautious and patient attitude. 

When polled on their expectations of the future, a quarter of people envision that reality will return within the next 6 months, while half think it will be over a year before we get back to normal, if at all. There has been very little movement since January on this measure.

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We’ve seen a similar sentiment on our community. Being vaccinated isn’t considered the silver bullet; there’s concern about spreading, recognition that a vaccine doesn’t offer 100% protection, a sense that we should wait until the whole population is vaccinated, and wariness around potential new strains throwing progress off course.

There’s still a real concern around spreading COVID-19. Only 17% of people said they were not worried about passing on COVID to friends and family, with over 55s being the most cautious about spreading. While a vaccine may assuage some fears, for many it will take an almost full rollout to see them increase in confidence.

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“To make a difference to how we all live and to get back to normal, then 'everyone' needs to be vaccinated. Even then there will always be a risk that you can re-catch it or a new strain comes along.”

“I feel it will be at least two years before the UK will be considered 'normal' again. Even as we pass the 15m vaccination mark, the rest of the world will take a lot longer to catch up… I don't see 'normal' again until 2022.”

“My concerns have really been about my parents and my partner’s parents. As long as they have had their vaccines so I'm less of a risk to them, and I'd had 1 vaccine, then I'd feel safer visiting them, again with some caution though.”

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#4 Going back to normal won’t be easy

COVID has had such a big impact on the way we live our lives that many feel it will be a process of learning to return to normality - and an acknowledgement that this won’t happen overnight. 

Nearly half of our respondents admitted that the idea of going back to a normal pre-COVID life makes them nervous, with some heightened anxiety among those in their 30s and with young families.

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We also discovered that people will continue to be wary of certain public spaces even after receiving the vaccine, with 46% saying they would still actively avoid using public transport, and 69% saying they wouldn’t be comfortable in large crowds until 2022.

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On our qualitative community we heard that when current restrictions are eased, certain safety measures such as mask wearing and social distancing will still be important and will be practiced for quite some time. 

The thought of being in a crowd makes many feel uncomfortable, and trips to busy shopping centres aren’t a top priority for most. Some have grown used to online shopping, and are quite happy to avoid non-essential shops for a while.

“It will take a very long time for me to be reassured. Having the vaccine will help but remember... it only takes one person, and indeed we do not know the full extent of immunity from the different strains of the virus.”

“Any sort of crowd would make us weary, particularly after so long.”

“I will probably continue to shop online as it’s so much more convenient. I can’t tell you the last time I went to a supermarket.”

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#5 Most of us will be continuing with new COVID-safe habits

There are certain behaviours which seem set to stick around post-pandemic. Most people agree that they will be more aware of hygiene and sanitation, will continue wearing a mask, observe social distancing - and almost a third (29%) claim they’ll never return to the days of the handshake!

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Our qualitative community echoed this sentiment. We heard that handwashing and face masks feel like sensible habits to keep up and an easy way to keep yourself and others safe. 

We also saw that official advice will play a big role in influencing which precautionary measures people maintain, even once they’ve had the vaccine, as people continue to look to the government for guidance on what’s safe. 

Respondents also felt that businesses had a certain level of responsibility to keep their customers safe, e.g. airlines, hotels etc. Sanitisation is now part and parcel of the service they expect and directly affects their decision-making.

“At the moment, I haven’t changed anything despite having had the first jab. I worry about still carrying so unless all of the vulnerable are fully vaccinated I won’t change this without government guidance suggesting it is safe.”

“We would stay at those hotels who demonstrated a stringent covid cleansing policy ie Hilton Honours who we stayed with pre-Xmas.”

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#6 Saving for brighter days

People are more likely to be looking to save than to spend, with 44% of people saying they are focusing on saving their money right now, and just a quarter that they are spending to make the most of time right now. 

Older demographics are even more likely to save, while younger people, those with young families, and those who had had closer experiences of COVID-19 were more likely to spend.

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We found this split on our community as well, with some saving to replenish straitened financial circumstances due to the pandemic, and others who have managed to improve their circumstances and got ‘into the way of’ saving. 

However, with summer on the horizon and the lockdown restrictions easing, others see a spending spree on the horizon.

“I would like to save, not for anything specific but just that all my savings were depleted during this pandemic.”

“I somehow don't think I will be saving. My feeling is that the better Spring weather will coincide with lockdown easing and a definite feel good feeling will spread across the country with everybody out spending - including me!”

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#7 Out of home spending will be prioritised once vaccinated

We also took a look at how people are planning to spend once they are vaccinated, and found that while groceries will remain an important spend area, there’s a definite emphasis on out of home spend, on restaurants, cafes, UK holidays, day trips and hosting friends and family.

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Many people are excited to start spending their money outside of the home once again, gym visits, beauty treatments and cinema trips are areas which will all see an increase in consumer spending. When asked which areas they will prioritise their spending, 34% of respondents said their top priority would be going out to restaurants and cafes again.

“I will probably be spending more on coffees, lunches and perhaps a short staycation.”

“I would rather spend more on out of home entertainment! I hope restrictions lift enough so that this is an option.”

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#8 A new hope?

Following the government announcement of a roadmap out of lockdown, we took to our community to find out how consumer sentiment might have changed. 

There’s significant excitement, with people looking forward to leaving lockdown behind and especially eager to see their loved ones.

However they don’t want to jump the gun, and there’s apprehension that maybe the restrictions will be lifted too fast too soon, in particular around sending all children back to school at the same time. A few will be biding their time and seeing what happens at this milestone before looking towards more restrictions lifting.

“I am trying to contain my excitement at the possibility of finally seeing my grandkids.”

“I think everyone might be jumping the gun a little bit, we need to see what happens when the schools are open again (...) let's see what it does to the R rate.”

Lockdown Unlocked is an online qual community with 40 members across the UK, combined with a nat-rep quant tracker of 1,000 UK adults.