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WE Consumers Don’t Think COVID Is Over Yet—But They’re Ready to Get Out of the House

Young European consumers still see COVID as a long-term threat, but they’re ready to experience life in person again. Here’s what they’re comfortable doing now…


Though the Delta variant of COVID largely crushed young people’s dreams of having a “hot vax summer,” life is returning to some state of normal in Western Europe. Vaccination rates in the EU lagged earlier this year, but now the majority of people in Western Europe have gotten the jab, and borders, venues, restaurants, and more are opening back up. France and Italy have rolled out “health pass” programs, which allow vaccinated residents access to most indoor venues, including restaurants, bars, museums, and more. In Germany, proof of vaccination or a negative test is required for almost all indoor activities, and in the U.K., residents now have to show proof of vaccination to get into nightclubs. Meanwhile, travel within the EU has opened back up with similar restrictions. 

While none of this is exactly “normal,” it does point to one big shift: after 18 months of lockdowns, young consumers in Western Europe are starting to be able to return to in-person experiences. But are they ready for it? In our latest behavioral survey, we asked 13-39-year-olds in Western Europe to tell us their thoughts on COVID now, and what they’re currently comfortable doing. Here’s what they had to say:

To start with, young Europeans are under no false impressions about the threat of COVID. More than two-thirds of 13-39-year-olds think that COVID will still be a threat for more than six months, and just 7% think it’s already over. What’s more, 30% of Gen Z and Millennials tell us they’re still quarantining, defined as staying home as much as possible and avoiding contact with others. While mask mandates and restrictions on indoor activities are in place in the U.K., Germany, France, Spain, and Italy, lockdown measures have lifted in all of these countries, meaning that more than a quarter of young Europeans are choosing to err on the side of caution themselves. But that also means that nearly three-quarters of WE consumers are willing to go out—and are, despite the fact they don’t think COVID threats will be ending soon. With so many ready to leave the house, we wanted to know what they’re comfortable doing now:

More than any other activity, young Europeans are most comfortable with hanging out with family and friends outside, with fewer willing to risk indoor quality time with loved ones. But when looking at the non-family-and-friends-related experiences they’re open to, shopping in-person is the one they’re most comfortable with. While a report from the European Commission warned that European consumers are unlikely to return to pre-pandemic levels of spending and consumption, Gen Z and Millennials in WE are excited to return to in-person retail therapy. YPulse’s recent Western Europe Shopping and Retail report found that the majority (55%) of 13-39-year-old European consumers now prefer to shop online compared to shopping in a physical store, a shift driven by the pandemic. But 33% of 13-39-year-olds also say that shopping in-store is entertaining, and after a year of relying on their screens for entertainment, shopping outside of the house is a welcome change for some. 

Nearly half of young European consumers are also comfortable going out to eat in restaurants, while two in five are willing to go to work. Riskier in-person activities—such as traveling by plane, going to concerts, and going to sporting events—fall farther on the list, with fewer 13-39-year-olds saying they’re comfortable with them. But their level of comfort is rising:

In the few months that we’ve been tracking young European consumers’ COVID status, the activities they’re comfortable doing has already increased. Gen Z and Millennials around the world have long been driven by in-person experiences, and in the last two months, YPulse has seen this desire ramp back up. Now, many young consumers in Western Europe are getting out again. In the U.K., spending on experiences surged in August. According to data from credit card company Barclaycard, spending on entertainment and leisure rose 15.4% last month compared with pre-pandemic levels. Spending was higher across all categories (other than international travel), with spending particularly high in theatres, music festivals and theme parks, as well as bars and clubs. Retail sales also rose, signaling a turning point for the economy—and an overall shift in young European consumers’ willingness to get back to in-person experiences in the face of the continuing crisis.

YPulse Western Europe Business users can access the full WE personal care and beauty shopping behavioral report and data here.

Don’t have a YPulse Western Europe Business account? Find out more here.