Latest Gulf South Index measures citizen decision-making about what to buy and where to go.
The hope about 2020 that residents of the Gulf South showed as they struggled with the initial lifestyle challenges of COVID-19 has faded. However, this part of the country still remains more optimistic about the future when compared nationally.
As we began August, 44% of Gulf South residents were optimistic that 2020 would be better for them and their families than 2019, down from 66% at the end of March, according to the Gulf South Index, a cooperative research project between The Ehrhardt Group and Causeway Solutions. The U.S. Gulf South is defined as Louisiana, Mississippi, coastal Alabama and the Florida Panhandle.
“Our willingness as consumers to enjoy experiences and spend money grows as our optimism about our circumstances improves. As the days roll on, the people of the Gulf South are telling us that they are more hesitant right now to do many of the things that make this part of the world so distinct. Fewer people are interested in attending festivals and sporting events right now. The main reason for this is a lack of clarity on when things may improve. This vagueness creates more uncertainty for companies and a greater need for a business to maintain its bonds with the audiences and customers most important to them,” said Marc Ehrhardt, president and partner of The Ehrhardt Group.
In March, 67% of Gulf South residents thought the COVID-19 outbreak would last less than three months. Now, 92% think the current disruptions will last at least a few more months or even into 2021 and beyond.
Only 18% of people in the Gulf South rated the economy good or very good, down from 31% in March. 28% of Gulf South residents see themselves as better off financially now than they were two years ago.
“Tensions are increasing in the Gulf South region because no one is sure how long the current disruptions will last. How we navigate the next few months will be critical to any business trying to reach consumers. As each day unfolds, there are new concerns, changes and impacts on day-to-day life as we know it,” said Bill Skelly, CEO of Causeway Solutions.
A bright spot in the uncertainty is that the Gulf South remains more optimistic than the rest of the country that 2020 can be a better year for our families. Only 40% of people nationally feel this way.
WE WILL STAY CLOSE TO HOME, BUT NOT LOCKED DOWN
The uncertainty about what’s to come carries over to how we are making decisions about spending money. More than 57% of people in the Gulf South are uncomfortable with returning to their regular routines today.
When it comes to dining out, some Gulf South residents are willing to venture out to a local restaurant in the near future.
Three-quarters of us are comfortable visiting a close friend or family member at their home. While 20% say they would feel comfortable attending a sporting event or concert right now, only 8% of those surveyed say they are actually likely to do this.
Gulf South residents may hit the road for a change of scenery, but they are not going far. Only 36% are likely to travel within driving distance of their home and very few are willing to travel to a large city in the next few months.
“We are not looking to travel far, but we would travel close to home. This creates opportunities for businesses to showcase their offerings to locals that may have been taken for granted because they are so close to home. Now is a time for discovering the opportunities and experiences in our own communities that we may have missed,” said Ehrhardt.
WELL, WHAT HAVE WE BEEN DOING WITH OUR TIME?
THE GULF SOUTH INDEX IS JUST GETTING STARTED
The Gulf South Index is a cooperative project between The Ehrhardt Group, a public relations, content, issues and crisis firm, and Causeway Solutions, a nationally recognized research and data analysis company, that are both based in the Gulf South.
The Index delves into hundreds of thousands of data points to paint a better picture of how the millions of people living in Louisiana, Mississippi, coastal Alabama and the Florida Panhandle are going about their lives. We want to find out more about how we make decisions, from what we are buying and how we are getting our news to where we plan to travel.
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HOW DID WE FIND THIS STUFF OUT?
Causeway Solutions and The Ehrhardt Group conducted a series of online surveys, each of 1,500 adults with a margin of error of +/- 3%. The most recent survey was conducted on July 18-20, 2020.
We cannot comment on the methodology of the surveys and research we did not conduct, which is why we do our best to link to the source articles or studies that we share here.