William Blair's survey of US consumer behaviors and attitudes on future spending posted its largest ever sequential increase in worry level, to 6.1 (from 5.4 in early July), reversing a pattern of steady declines this year and the highest worry level since March.

This rise came as the Delta variant sparks a fresh round of concerns.

William Blair’s ‘Consumer Pulse’ surveys 500 people on their plans and attitudes about a number of activities, including things like going to a restaurant, buying clothes or a car, going to a movie theater, concert or fitness club, international travel and taking a cruise.

Fully vaccinated are more worried

For fully vaccinated respondents — about 75% of the brokerage’s sample — worry rose to the highest level since William Blair started asking about vaccination status in early March, while ticking up only modestly for unvaccinated respondents and still below early March levels.

Worry levels rose across all age groups but is most pronounced for those over 60, and nearly all US regions, led by significant jumps in New England, the New York tri-state region, the Southeast and Pacific.

Consumers are largely staying the course in activity levels, although William Blair cited ‘worrisome across-the-board retreat in plans for the next month’ among both vaccinated and unvaccinated respondents. This ‘bears watching and could forebode more volatile upcoming trends versus the fairly steady upward momentum experienced in most consumer sectors so far in 2021,’ the brokerage said.

Cruise plans

Plans to cruise in the next month declined 2.3%, to 3.3% the week of July 26, down from 5.6% the week of May 31. Among the vaccinated, the number went from 4.9% to 2.5% during the same period, and for the unvaccinated, from 7.3% to 5.6%.

As far as intent to cruise in the next three months, the overall number was 3.8%, up from 2.3% the week of July 5 and 3.5% the week of May 31. The peak intent to cruise in the next three months of the 2021 surveys was 6.9% the week of Jan. 11.

Intent to cruise in the next six months was 6.1%, up from 4.1% the week of July 5 and just off the 6.2% the week of May 31, which had been the highest number recorded this year.

Intent to cruise in the next 12 months measured 7.7%, down from 11.2% the week before and 12% the week of May 31, this year’s high.

Of those surveyed, 72.9% don’t plan to cruise in the next year, close to the 72.2% who said so the prior week and down from the 77.4% high for 2021 in the week of March 8.