A New Normal for Europe?

July 7, 2020
Coronavirus | Living Life
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As Europe emerges from lockdown, and shops and restaurants gradually reopen in the hope that their customers will return promptly, Redfield & Wilton Strategies conducted polls in France, Germany, Italy, and Spain to assess whether, and how, Europeans are adapting to a so-called ‘new normal.’

In regard to masks, rules and regulations differ between countries: in all four countries masks are mandatory on public transport but only Spaniards and Italians are obliged to wear one in shops. In accordance with these rules, we found that German (27%) and French (31%) respondents are distinctively less likely to always wear a mask to cover their mouth and nose when leaving their home. Notably, 23% of Germans stated that they never wear a mask when going outside. By contrast, a large majority of both Italians (56%) and Spaniards (63%) stated that they always wear a mask.

In supermarkets and on public transportation, respondents in all four countries stated that they always wear a mask. French respondents are the most likely (58%) to always wear a mask on public transports, yet are also the least likely (52%) to do so in supermarkets. In Spain (80%) and Italy (78%) more than three quarter of respondents answered that they always wear a mask when shopping at the supermarket

As the lockdown forced many non-essential shops to close their physical premises, customers across Europe turned to alternative modes of consumption, although to different extents. Indeed, while a majority of respondents in Italy (52%) and Germany (46%) have eaten takeout from a restaurant since the pandemic began, only about one in three (36%) French respondents did so. Likewise, Spaniards were more likely (36%) to have had a virtual appointment with a doctor than French (23%) or German (22%) respondents.

Focusing on online shopping, we found that a majority of respondents in all four countries did not use grocery delivery services since the coronavirus crisis began. The willingness of the French, Spanish, German and Italian public to engage in-person grocery shopping highlights that this form of retail is likely to continue to dominate the sector going forward.

In contrast, we found that e-commerce has penetrated the southern European markets:  64% of Italians and 63% of Spaniards shopped online for items they would normally buy in person. 49% of French and 44% of Germans did likewise. That a majority of Italian and Spanish customers are now favouring online over in store shopping is a significant shift in countries which have traditionally had comparatively low rates of online shopping.

Significant debate has occurred across Europe about the impact the coronavirus pandemic will have on the future of the workplace.  Although remote working has become the norm over the last several months, in all four countries, we found that going forward, respondents are not more likely to seek a type of employment and employer that could allow them to work from home. In Germany, in particular, 59% of respondents answered as such. Only about a third of respondents in Italy and Spain stated that they would be more likely.

Nevertheless, in all four countries, a significant proportion of respondents in the younger segment of the population answered that they are more likely to seek a type of employment that would allow remote working. Such a generational gap suggests that younger generation may push for a change in working habits (Click on the chart to see age breakdown).

Overall, the public in southern Europe (which experienced a greater impact from the virus than their northern neighbours) appears to have altered their behaviours and spending habits to a greater degree than respondents in northern Europe. Moreover, the overall view of respondents in regard to the workplace differs considerably depending on their age. Whilst significant shifts in habits have been observed through our polling, it remains to be seen whether these changes are permanent: a so-called ‘new normal’, or a temporary change given the unique circumstances.

To find out more information about this research contact our research team. Redfield & Wilton Strategies is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

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