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As the coronavirus continues its spread in the US, consumers are taking note and many plan to change their habits as it gets worse, according to a proprietary Coresight Research survey. Indeed, the survey found that many consumers are already avoiding public places.

Some 27.5% of respondents say they are avoiding public areas or limiting visits to public areas or changing travel arrangements. In addition, 58% say they are likely to take similar actions if the coronavirus outbreak worsens in the US.

Stores and malls are, not surprisingly, places that consumers are avoiding. Among those who have changed habits, more than four in 10 say they are avoiding or limiting visits to shopping centers/malls and more than three in 10 avoid shops in general.

It is the older shoppers that are more likely to avoid retail, Coresight also found, with current avoidance of public areas or travel overall peaking at 31% among the 30–44 age group, versus the 27.5% average. Coresight notes the differences by age are not substantial, but among those currently taking precautions, older consumers are much more likely than their younger counterparts to avoid retail formats: Over half of “avoiders” aged over 60 say they already avoid shopping centers/malls, compared to slightly more than one-third of “avoiders” aged 18–29.

“This may prove some consolation to many brick-and-mortar retailers, who will be more reliant on big-basket, family-lifestage shoppers (such as in grocery and essentials) or freer-spending younger consumers (such as in fashion),” Coresight said.

Such nuances aside, it is clear that a worsening of the outbreak would hit malls disproportionately. “Among those likely to change habits if the outbreak worsens, around three-quarters expect to avoid shopping centers/malls—making this the most-avoided type of location,” Coresight reports.

“Shoppers say they will continue to avoid malls more than shops in general.” The broader leisure and services industry is likely to see hits to movie theaters, restaurants and sports events, with our survey recording high levels of avoidance or possible future avoidance if the outbreak worsens, Coresight also said.