Monday 24 February 2020 12:01 am

Coronavirus: Consumers prepare to cancel holidays over virus fears

A third of British consumers are prepared to cancel holiday plans if the coronavirus persists.

New research from Retail Economics shows that 31 per cent of consumers are prepared to cancel travel plans. It puts £17.2bn of holiday spending on hold as people await clarity over the virus.

Read more: What is the coronavirus and how dangerous is it?

A disparity in the perception over the current level of threat is playing out in differences in consumers’ habits.

Concerned consumers, who believe the virus threat is high, are five times more likely to currently avoid travelling abroad and are 20 times more likely to avoid shopping destinations such as malls.

If the virus persists there could be a significant knock-on effect on the retail and leisure sector. Six per cent of consumers currently avoid shopping destinations but this number could rise to 16 per cent if the coronavirus persisted.

Around a quarter of consumers believe the threat is high in the UK, while 35 per cent think it is a moderate threat.

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There is further anxiety and confusion around how shoppers can safeguard themselves from the coronavirus. Nearly half of all respondents (48 per cent) would avoid buying online from international sellers that ship products from China if the virus persisted.

Retail Economics has suggested that concerns over the coronavirus could shift discretionary spending into other parts of the consumer sector or put more into savings.

Chief executive Richard Lim said: “If the virus persists, consumers are likely to cut back in three main areas: holidays and travel, eating out, and using public transport.”

Read more: World Health Organisation ‘concerned’ about growing number of coronavirus cases without a link to China

“Consumers will shift this spending elsewhere as they substitute what they would have spent abroad to other areas of the economy.”

Fears over the coronavirus add to an already fragile backdrop for consumer confidence. Lim added: “People are worried about Brexit, a weaker outlook for the economy, lack of savings, and how to shop sustainability amid concerns about the impact of consumption on the environment.”

In the UK a total of 6,152 people have been tested for the virus and nine people have tested positive for the coronavirus.

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