FRI AM News: Changes in consumer behavior reflect shifting values; “WisBusiness: The Podcast” features economist David Clark, Marquette University

— Changes in consumer behavior are more than temporary responses to the COVID-19 pandemic — they are changes that reflect shifting societal values, said UW-Madison Profs. Evan Polman and Nancy Wong.

In “The UW Now” livestream event put on by the alumni association, both professors highlighted that changes in consumption are needed to create smarter consuming and more socially responsible societies.

Polman, an associate professor in the Wisconsin School of Business, noted several downfalls of current consumer culture including that some consumers have responded to the pandemic by stockpiling goods, a decision caused by panic. Other behaviors included price gouging — a way for businesses to use surcharges to pass on expenses to the consumers. 

He took the opportunity to urge viewers to email the attorney general if they experience price gouging. 

But despite these seemingly negative trends seen during the pandemic, Polman said he hopes that things don’t go back to what they were like before COVID-19. 

The rise of contactless service has meant increased automation, cashless transactions and new service designs and architecture, such as “dark retail” — outlets designed for exclusively online shopping. Polman believes such changes are promising reflections of consumer attitudes.

Read the full story at 

— This week’s episode of “WisBusiness: The Podcast” features David Clark, economics professor at Marquette University and a consultant to the Wisconsin Realtors Association.

The WRA’s monthly analysis showed that statewide, home sales fell since last May but home prices went up. That was the case broken down regionally as well. And while the nation is in a recession due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Clark noted in the report that this one might be different from past recessions such as in 2008.

“What’s different this time is our inventories are not high… so prices are unlikely to fall,” Clark said. “The other thing that is somewhat different is mortgage rates were not at record low levels at the beginning of the Great Recession… we are now at historic lows for 30-year fixed rate mortgages.”

Since Wisconsin’s economy opened up sooner than other states, he suspects that it will generate activity at a more rapid pace than states that are still locked down. But Clark noted that the national economy is the main driver. 

“As long as we’re in a recession, that’s going to dampen housing activity,” he said. 

Clark predicts that June’s housing analysis will look similar to that of May and the upcoming months to still be lower than 2019 — a “good year for housing.”

“We’ll see how it plays out as we go into the future. We’ll have to see what the recovery looks like,” he said. 

Listen to the podcast, sponsored by UW-Madison: 

— After a lawsuit from the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, the Lake Geneva City Council took action this month to amend their city ordinance for home rentals, removing provisions in the city’s short-term rental ordinance.

State law gives homeowners the right to rent their home on a short-term basis for up to 180 days in a year. The City of Lake Geneva’s ordinance requires installing a ‘Knox Box’ giving city officials the key to their home, open their homes to inspections from city officials, provide their guest registries and rental records and pay a $2,000 fee — the largest in the state. 

On behalf of three homeowners, WILL and the Wisconsin Realtors Association issued a letter to the city last fall identifying the “harmful and illegal” provisions.

“Both the U.S. Constitution and Wisconsin Statutes protect the rights of homeowners to rent their homes on a short-term basis, subject to reasonable local regulations,” WRA Senior Vice President of Legal and Public Affairs Tom Larson said. “We applaud the changes made to the City of Lake Geneva’s short-term rental regulations, which will help better protect the property rights of homeowners in the City.”

See the release: 

— Green Bay Packers CEO Mark Murphy says fans have a lot to look forward to after a successful offseason, but no word yet on Lambeau Field capacity.

The Packer season will open up with two home preseason games, both scheduled on Saturdays. But Murphy told a Regional Leadership Council webinar that the million dollar questions are “will the games be held, will we have fans in the stands?”

“Hope is not a strategy, but we hope we have a full season, we hope we have 100 percent of our capacity,” he said. However, the organization’s main concern is to keep the fans, players, coaches and staff safe.’’ 

Right now, players are getting back to training camp, and the league is working through decisions, “but we’re not going to make those decisions until we absolutely have to and also knowing that we have a lot of information and the right information,” Murphy said. “That’s where we’re really going to rely on medical experts.”

He noted that most of the decisions will be league-driven to make sure that everything is competitively equitable, but certain things will be left to clubs to determine on their own in conjunction with local and state officials.

Murphy recognized how fortunate the NFL was to not have had the pandemic start in the middle or beginning of the season — challenges that the MLB and NBA are facing. 

“We’re going to be able to learn from some of the things that they go through as they try to bring their sport back,” he said. “I think as a league and as an organization, we’ve been able to conduct our offseason pretty well virtually.”

Murphy noted their success in free agency, keeping players safe and the NFL Draft — which had a 35 percent increase in ratings. 

“We adapted,” he said. “To me, the better organizations are going to be flexible and adaptable; it’s not going to be normal again.”

— After a record daily spike in COVID-19 cases, Dane County is not likely to move into phase three of its reopening plan anytime soon.

Public Health Madison & Dane County updated its COVID-19 data dashboard yesterday morning with Wednesday’s statistics. The data read that the county saw a record spike of 97 new cases in one day.

According to the state’s Department of Health Services, Dane County has the fifth largest number of cases in the state at 1,324. But its infection ratio is only 2.5 per 1,000 people — well under the state’s larger hotspots.

The DHS data show that Dane County saw an increase of 89 cases yesterday — about 19 percent of Wisconsin’s total new cases — and 63 new cases Wednesday. DHS’s numbers are the official state numbers, though counties may report their own totals independent of DHS. 

Just last week, the county not only met its metrics for phase two, but for phase three. That isn’t the case anymore. After the metrics were updated on June 22, there were two metrics with a red status: community spread and COVID-like Symptoms. Cases per day was a metric trending towards red.

Any red metric would prevent Dane County from moving to phase three.

The cases-per-day metric has seen a steady increase over the past month. When Dane County announced a transition to phase one on May 22, the county had a two-week average of eight new cases per day. On June 12, when the county moved into phase two, the average was 16 new cases per day. 

As of yesterday, the two-week average is 30 cases per day, largely in individuals ages 20-29.  

“As we continue under Forward Dane, it’s important that we do so as safely as possible,” Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce said in its membership newsletter. “For businesses, this means having the required hygiene, cleaning and protective measure policies and documenting staff receipt or training before reopening.”

GMCC also noted businesses should be incorporating general and sector-specific best practices, encouraging remote work to the greatest extent possible, accommodating sick employees, assisting contact tracers and knowing what to do if you have an employee that tests positive. 

“For customers, this means following Public Health recommendations for shopping and visiting establishments,” GMCC said. “As more residents begin to expand their social circles, it is becoming more difficult to pinpoint the source of infections.”

In the June 22 snapshot that the public health department took to evaluate metrics, 33 percent of cases had an unknown origin. That is above the red threshold of 30 percent and an increase from the relatively stable rate of 23 percent in previous data snapshots. 

“Keeping this number within the green and yellow ranges is important to controlling community spread,” said the chamber.

Public Health Madison & Dane County has been updating and reviewing the data every Friday with the exception of this week.

See the metrics here: 

See the Dane County dashboard here: 

— The state saw 464 new confirmed COVID-19 cases since the last count, another record case day since early June.

Despite a spike in new cases, the percentage of positive tests fell to 4.1 percent from 4.3 percent Wednesday.

The new cases bring the cumulative count to 26,227. The state reported 11,222 tests yesterday, well under the state’s daily testing capacity of 18,425 tests.

To date, the state has administered over 524,000 tests. 

— The state’s COVID-19 death toll reached 766, nine more deaths than the previous count.

Milwaukee County had four new deaths while Brown County had two more. Kenosha, Washington and Waukesha counties had one more.

The number of recovered patients is at an estimated 78 percent, while 3 percent of patients have died. Active cases, cases still in a 30-day waiting period of symptom onset or diagnosis, number 19 percent.

Counties reporting deaths include: Milwaukee (381), Racine (61), Brown (42), Kenosha (41), Waukesha (38), Dane (32), Rock (23), Walworth (18), Ozaukee (15), Washington (15), Grant (12), Winnebago (11), Outagamie (8), Clark (6), Fond du Lac (6), Waupaca (6), Dodge (5), Jefferson (4), Richland (4) and Sheboygan (4).

Door, Forest, Marinette and Sauk counties report three deaths each. Adams, Buffalo and Calumet counties report two deaths each.

Bayfield, Burnett, Columbia, Eau Claire, Green, Iron, Jackson, Juneau, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Marathon, Marquette, Monroe, Polk, St. Croix and Wood counties report one death each.

Click here for more coronavirus resources and updates: 


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