Between December 2019 and December 2020, the confidence clearly plummeted as soon as the first lockdown kicked in. “April showed the minimum rate, which is disastrous,” noted André Sapir, a senior fellow at the Bruegel think tank and professor at the Solvay Brussels School of Economics and Management.
“Summer is rather stable among consumers, but at a low level. We have not recovered as much as usual. Confidence also remains weaker than at the beginning of the year, we have only recovered a third of the confidence”, Sapir continued.
The drop in confidence during the October-November period is smaller because the second lockdown was different, less strict, and with fewer deaths. Confidence among European consumers has since picked up but remains low.
However, while consumers continue to be wary of the situation, they are still consuming.
This can be seen in the strong upturn in confidence experienced by retailers between June and October since according to Sapir, “more purchases are being made than consumer confidence would suggest.” Interior goods in particular, such as furniture and decoration, have been in high demand.
By comparison, the industry sector, which was already down in 2019, seems to have regained some confidence since autumn.
According to the economist, the slump in 2019 was especially due to the trade wars between China and the US under the Trump administration. “The political and economic environment was not good, it was a soft year,” he said.
However, confidence has returned among industry players in the autumn because of the second wave’s less devastating impact and prospects of future vaccines. These have given companies reassurances on future consumption, but also on workers’ health and employment more generally.