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Posts Tagged ‘consumer behavior’

“New Frugality” May Be an Enduring Feature of Post-Recession Economy

In Consumer Trends, economy on February 25, 2010 at 12:11 am

A “new frugality,” born of The Great Recession and evidenced by two consecutive years of declining per capita consumption, is now becoming entrenched consumer behavior that is reshaping consumption patterns in ways that will persist even as the economy rebounds, according to a new survey of 2,000 U.S. consumers from Booz & Company.

This new consumer spending report confirms a picture of pervasive retrenchment in consumer spending that spans a broad range of consumer product categories. But the survey also suggests that increased frugality may have become learned behavior, making many Americans more cautious and discerning consumers. What is more, the study suggests that these behaviors are “sticky,” and unlikely to quickly change as the economy shows signs of improvement. For example, in the next 12 months just 9% of consumers intend to spend at pre-recession levels on household products, 10% on mobile phone service, 11% on health and beauty products, and 18% on apparel, clothing, and shoes. Moreover, nearly two-thirds (64%) of consumers say they’ll shop at a different store with lower prices even if it’s less convenient for them.

“Frugal behavior is now considered trendy by many shoppers, and will continue for years to come,” said Matt Egol, a Booz & Company Partner. “In this changed environment, marketers need to develop deeper insights into shopper attitudes and behaviors in order to better align their product, pricing, and marketing communications strategies.”

Evidence of changed consumer attitudes abounds in the study. For example:

•Approximately two-thirds of the respondents (65%) say they now consider saving to be more important than spending, and that they frequently use coupons.
•More than half (55%) say they would rather get the best price than the best brand.
•More than half of consumers surveyed reduced discretionary spending on a range of categories, including dining out (58%), consumer electronics (53%), apparel (53%), and media and entertainment (51%).

Further, these attitudes are translating into strong behavioral change going forward:

•Nearly two-thirds (64%) of consumers say they’ll shop at a different store with lower prices even if it’s less convenient for them.
•Only one-third (32%) of respondents believe that their household financial status over the next twelve months will change for the better, reinforcing focus on frugal shopping behaviors such as deferring spending, trading down to lower price points, or buying their favorite brands during promotions
Several other consumer behaviors characterize the “new frugality.”

Highlights include:

Shopping itself is less impulsive and more disciplined. Recession-habituated shoppers are more inclined than ever to do research before going to the store. This was especially true, the survey revealed, in three categories: Health and Beauty (83%), Household Products (82%) and Food and Beverage (79%).

Another study conducted this past Fall by Booz & Company in collaboration with Grocery Manufacturers Association, “Shopper Marketing 3.0,” found a comparable proportion of shoppers conducting research before they shop, with a focus on finding the best prices, clipping coupons, and reading circulars for what is on sale. The “Shopper Marketing 3.0” study also found that many shoppers use price breaks to justify buying the brands they love.

The shift to private label products has accelerated and shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, Booz & Company analysis shows that private labels are likely to continue to take share from brand names. Said Egol, “Retailers are unlikely to give brands back the shelf space that private label has taken given their dependence on private label for profits. In addition, consumers are reporting generally positive experiences when trying private labels, so for some consumers they are becoming preferred brands.”

However, the move to lower price points overall, while pervasive, is not universal. Generally, shoppers are opting for lower priced brands in apparel, household products, and food. But they are less inclined to “trade down” when purchasing alcoholic beverages, tobacco, and health and beauty products.

Not surprisingly, big ticket items will continue to see the biggest household spending cuts: In the past year consumers continued to defer expenditures for items like consumer electronics (only 22% made purchases) or home improvements (23% made purchases). These behaviors will continue in 2010; only 13% and 17% respectively said they would revert to pre-recession buying habits in these categories.

Implications for Marketers

The Booz & Company survey sheds light on the challenges faced by consumer marketers and retailers emerging from the recession. Specifically, faced with the same basic economic trends, consumers are behaving differently with respect to their attitudes toward value and loyalty. Booz & Company identified six distinct, new consumer segments that can help interpret how customers shop in terms of brand loyalty, retail format loyalty, and online behaviors. These segments range from “Shopper 2.0” – young consumers who tend to buy online, regardless of product category, who are price sensitive with few brand or store format loyalties – to “Loyalists,” largely male, who are loyal to both brands and the stores where they shop, but are also avid users of the Internet for research and buying.

“This more cautious consumer approach to spending began even before the recession came into full swing but has since picked up speed,” said Booz & Company Partner Andrew Clyde. “As manufacturers lured consumers with new promotions, consumers traded down and liked the experience. As the economy recovers, marketers need to better target their strategies to preserve the value of existing brands, and avoid destroying value through too blunt a competitive response across segments.”

For retailers and consumer products manufacturers, Booz & Company identifies specific areas to spur growth and profitability coming out of the downturn:

•Building marketing strategies and tactics that address where and why consumers shop – rather than relying too heavily on demographics-based approached used for advertising buying.
•Determining differences in consumer behavior across product categories, offline vs. online shopping occasions, and specific retailers/etailers.
•Differentiating marketing messages and promotional offers to more price conscious consumers vs. those who place greater value on brand or convenience.
•Engaging shoppers along the full path to purchase, rather than treating online and in-store interactions as silos.


One in Ten Americans Struggling With Mortgage Payments

In Uncategorized on September 1, 2009 at 10:01 pm

One in every ten Americans is struggling to make their mortgage payments, but only 58 percent of Americans said they would call their bank to ask for help if they missed a payment and 15 percent would say nothing and try to get back on track alone, according to a new survey from

“More than 50 percent of Americans know someone who has been affected by the current mortgage crisis yet nearly half of our survey respondents would still choose ignoring the problem to calling their bank. Consumers are confused and think their banks don’t care but no one wins with foreclosure,” said Steve Ozonian, Executive Chairman of

Mortgage brokers are also suffering as a result of foreclosurers, according to market research firm IBISWorld.

“Mortgage brokers are also facing much tighter regulation on the way they conduct their business. Regulatory compliance, consolidation and competition are likely to shape this industry in the future as it attempts to wheel itself out of the subprime pit”, said Toon Van Beeck, senior analyst at IBISWorld.

Consumer Behavior Trends Sparked By Recession

In Consumer Trends, economy, Uncategorized on July 27, 2009 at 6:29 pm

Americans Spending Differently

According to Research and Markets, 90% of US consumers believe that they are currently living in a recession. This is indicative of an intensifying recessionary mindset influencing consumer behavior. Symptomatic of falling consumer confidence is the fact that more than one-in-three US consumers experienced a worsening financial situation, falling job security and falling confidence in the housing market in 2008-09.

The study shows that:

•56% of US consumers feel that their lifestyle has been impacted by the recession. Suddenly, they have been forced to re-evaluate their spending, including where they do their grocery shopping as well as their in-store choices.

•44% of US shoppers are frequent buyers of private label products. Many are now likely to consider private label products to be on a par, if not better than market leading brands across sectors.

•For 72% of US shoppers, lower prices have a high amount of influence over where people do their shopping. Nevertheless, the quality of products sold similar influence over their (changeable) grocery shopping destinations. This is symptomatic of the intensifying value-consciousness across FMCG product sectors.

Women More Likely To Pinch Pennies

Women are cutting back more on discretionary expenditures than men in poor economic times, according to a new survey conducted by Opinion Research Corporation. Of those who participated in the survey, 86 percent of women reported spending less on elective expenditures compared to 78 percent of men.

When asked specifically about the lifestyle changes that have been made in the past 12 months due to the current economic environment, those surveyed provided the following responses:

•58 percent of women are eating out less, compared to 48 percent of men
•54 percent of women are buying fewer clothes and shoes, compared to 40 percent of men
•48 percent of women are shopping more at discount stores, compared to 37 percent of men
•36 percent of women are cutting back on charitable giving, compared to 26 percent of men
•31 percent of women have cancelled or postponed vacations, compared to 22 percent of men
Additionally, the survey found that 22 percent of men reported making none of these lifestyle changes, compared to 14 percent of women.

“More and more women are now responsible for managing the family’s finances, and they are more cost-conscious as the economy tightens their purse strings,” said Paula DeLaurentis, managing director, strategic alliances, TD AMERITRADE. “As a result, women are cutting back on daily expenditures and luxuries now more than ever.”

The survey also revealed that the down economy has affected the lifestyles of people living in the Northeast during the past 12 months, more so than any other region in the United States, particularly the West.

Key findings include:

•52 percent of those surveyed from the Northeast have postponed a major purchase compared to 39 percent of those from the West.
•19 percent of those surveyed from the Northeast have postponed adding to the family, such as, pregnancy, adoption and foster children, compared to 7 percent of those from the West.
•50 percent of those surveyed from the Northeast are buying fewer clothes or shoes compared to 44 percent of those from the West.

Strain on Career and Relationships

The recession is also splitting up and straining more marriages and relationships in America than in eight other major nations, according to a global survey commissioned by ING DIRECT. More Americans also believe that they will have to work at least ten more years before retiring – more than any other surveyed country. Yet, Americans are the least likely to sacrifice things people in other leading nations are willing to give up like their cars and pets to save money.

Nearly three in ten Americans (29 percent) say the recession has “added stress to,” “strained,” or even “ruined” their marriage/relationship. American love lives have been the hardest hit compared to just 12 percent in Germany, 24 percent in France and 23 percent in Canada.

Americans are not just feeling the economic pressure at home; it appears to be affecting their retirement plans too. Forty percent of Americans say the current economic situation will cause them to retire at a later age. Of those Americans who said they will retire later, 34 percent think they will have to work ten or more years than originally planned.

“Whether it’s at home, in the boardroom or in the car showroom, people around the globe are affected by the recession,” said Arkadi Kuhlmann, President of ING DIRECT USA. “The long term benefit is that people are cutting costs, saving more money, and learning to build a financial buffer for their future. Clearly, some of these global trends need to become a habit.”

In general, people around the globe agree that food is the last thing they would sacrifice to save money, but no nation loves their vehicles and pets more than America. Interestingly, a recent report from market research firm IBISWorld indicates that despite the recession, families purchasing dogs and cats as pets has actually increased by 2.4 percent since last year.

When asked to name the last three things they would sacrifice to save money, 30 percent of Americans said their vehicle. Only Brits (30 percent) love their cars as much, while Italians (14 percent) and Spaniards (18 percent) are more willing to unload their vehicle. In the US, nearly a quarter of Americans (22 percent) put a high priority on pets compared to Canadians (17 percent), French (15 percent) and Italians (12 percent).

Other sociological savings trends from the study include:

Having a financial buffer in case of emergency is the most important saving goal

Austria – 53 percent
France – 43 percent
USA – 35 percent (#1 saving goal)


Retirement is the most important saving goal

USA – 16 percent (#3 saving goal)
UK – 6 percent
Italy – 2 percent

Avoid credit card purchases to save money

USA – 46 percent
Germany – 11 percent
Italy – 17 percent

Cooking at home, bringing lunch to work to save money

USA – 51 percent
Canada – 44 percent
Italy – 20 percent

 The online survey was commissioned by ING DIRECT and conducted by TNS in nine countries where ING DIRECT operates, including Australia, Canada, United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Austria. In the United States, the survey took place between May 26 – June 9, 2009 among 1,052 adults age 18+.


For Research and Market’s full report, “The Global Economic Crisis: The Impact On Consumer Attitudes & Behaviors in the United States”, click here.

For IBISWorld’s full report, “Economic Crisis: When Will It End?”, click here.

Euro Retail Sales Also Taking a Hit

In Consumer Trends, economy, Uncategorized on June 29, 2009 at 5:12 pm

According to the Bloomberg Euro-Zone Retail Purchasing Managers’ Index,  retail business conditions in Europe continued to deteriorate in June, with sales, employment, purchasing of stock and margins all falling compared with May.
When compared to May, retail sales fell in all of the three largest euro countries:

 –Germany experienced the steepest drop in monthly sales of the three, and was also the only country to record a sharper rate of decline. The index fell for a second successive month from 46.3 to 46.0, signaling the largest monthly drop in sales since March and the thirteenth successive decline. The average decline for Q2 as a whole was the smallest since the second quarter of last year.
Sales fell in France for the fifth successive month. The rate of deterioration slowed to near-stagnation to register the smallest monthly decline over this period and the best performance of the three countries. The index rose from 48.3 to 49.4. For Q2 as a whole, the decline was the weakest recorded over the past three quarters.
Italy saw sales drop for the twenty-eighth consecutive month. The index rose from 46.5 to 47.0, registering the smallest monthly decline since October 2007. The rate of contraction has moderated since the record pace seen last November, meaning the average monthly drop in sales during Q2 was the smallest since Q2 2007.

Euro area retail sales were down from June 2008. The year-on-year sales index rose from 38.7 in May to 42.7. This upward movement pointed to an easing in the rate of decline from the severe pace seen one month earlier. Sales fell from a year ago in all three countries, led by Italy, which was also the only country to see an acceleration in the rate of decline. Germany reported the weakest overall year-on-year drop.

Americans Still Not Spending

In economy, Uncategorized on June 25, 2009 at 4:58 pm

spendingAccording to, Americans are continuing to tighten their belts through Q1 of this year. 2008 data shows users of the online personal finance service cutting spending by an average of 4% each quarter, and by another 4% in Q1 2009. Overall Q1 2009 spending was down 17% versus Q1 2008 across eight key categories. This indicates that, at a national level, the leading money management and budgeting service’s users remain concerned about the length and depth of the U.S. recession and its potential impact on family job loss and economic security.

This continuing trend of regular expense reductions tells me that consumer confidence is not yet on the rise,” said Aaron Patzer, CEO and founder of “Our users are looking for more concrete evidence that the U.S. economy is truly bottoming out before they’ll be returning to prior spending levels … if in fact they do. While it’s tough to know that 17% of last year’s spend has fallen out of the American economy, it’s satisfying to know that our financial management and budgeting software appears to be helping our growing user base weather one of the longest downturns in our nation’s history.”

The most dramatic decrease is in Shopping, where user spending has dropped by more than 40%, which is significant savings in aggregate, but was accomplished by a steady, gradual 3-5% cut each month in a discretionary category where that type of control is possible

Users have also cut spending quarter over quarter in Entertainment (by 24%) and Bills & Utilities (by 16%)

Other categories have fluctuated quarter over quarter based on seasonal shifts, but still show a net decline:

Spending on Gifts and Donations was down 1%, in spite of a 25% spike in Q3 and Q4 with election donations and the holiday season
Automotive spending has seen the broadest swing in spending, with the extreme variance in gas prices in the same time period, but still nets at a 24% decline over the examined quarters.

The only category that has completely recovered is Food & Dining, where spending in Q109 was actually higher than it was a year prior – but just by 2%.

“This data suggests that Mint’s current tools and guidance are working well for our users today,” said Patzer, “But there’s much more opportunity to make budgeting and planning easier and more effective for more Americans. We’ll be introducing new and improved product features and educational content in Q3 and Q4 designed to do just that.”

Economic Recovery Anytime Soon?

As unemployment continues to rise and disposable income drops, no one is anticipating a fast recovery. Consumers have become increasingly concerned for their jobs and are saving rather than spending.

According to market research firm IBISWorld and their latest report on the economic crisis, we can expect the economy to contract overall by 3% in 2009 – the worst decline in more than 50 years. The lowest point may have been reached in the first quarter, and it will not be until 2011 that overall economic activity will surpass 2008 levels.

Recession-Weary Americans Spending Less On Healthier Foods

In Consumer Trends, economy, Uncategorized on June 16, 2009 at 7:50 pm

Almost half (46 percent) of Americans are reluctant to spend more on healthier versions of food, the United Soybean Board’s (USB) 2009 Consumer Attitudes about Nutrition survey reveals. This is not for lack of interest: Of those not willing to spend more, 52 percent confirm the reason is financial. However, nutritious foods don’t always come with a hefty price tag.

According to the sixteenth annual research study, 87 percent of Americans express concern about the nutritional content of the food they eat, a number that reflects Americans’ interest in healthier foods. While consumers juggle nutrition and economic value, 88 percent still consider nutrition important when purchasing foods at the grocery store.
Within price constraints, Americans are taking greater control of their health by choosing functional foods that provide specific health benefits. According to Packaged Facts’ Functional Foods and Beverages study, U.S. retail sales for functional foods totaled $31 billion in 2008, an increase from $26.9 billion in 2006. Soymilk faired especially well in sales, although controversy surrounding soy and estrogen may start to cause a decline in demand for soy-related products. Still, 84 percent of Americans rate soy as healthy, up 25 percentage points over the last 12 years. In fact, one-third of Americans purchase foods specifically because they contain soy.

Survey Finds 91% of Consumers Still Prefer Brand Products

In Consumer Trends, economy, Uncategorized on June 15, 2009 at 7:07 pm

New consumer polling data shows that an overwhelming majority of U.S. supermarket shoppers will continue purchasing store brand products after the recession is over.

A poll conducted this month by GfK Custom Research North America for the Private Label Manufacturers Association reports that 91% of shoppers say they will keep buying store brand products after the recession ends. Conversely, only 8% of the consumer polled said they will stop buying these products.
The quality of store brand products is a big factor in convincing shoppers to keep buying them. The GfK poll found that 9 of every 10 shoppers agree that the store brand products they buy are just as good as, or better than, national brand products.
This positive experience makes shoppers eager for an even greater assortment of store brand products from which to choose. Nearly half of consumers polled said they wanted their supermarket to carry a greater assortment of private label products.

According to market research firm IBISWorld,  in-house or private label brands in supermarkets have become a significant trend within the industry.

In the meantime, the recession is still having a big impact on shoppers:
More than half (54%) of them say the recession is an important factor in their decision-making and 32% say it is very important.

Well into the recession, shoppers are still switching to store brands. The poll found that 35% of shoppers are trying store brand products in categories where they had previously only purchased national brand items. More than 3 of every 10 shoppers say they are now buying more store brand products than they were a year ago.

Related Links

Supermarkets & Grocery Stores in the US – IBISWorld industry report

Consumers Pamper Pop This Fathers Day

In Uncategorized on June 9, 2009 at 6:21 pm

Despite the economic downturn and retail sales plummeting, this Father’s Day it looks like dads are going from handyman to dandyman, as sales of pampering services and related products are expected to increase 35.7 percent, according to industry research firm IBISWorld. 

Although pampering services only accounts for a small portion of total Father’s Day spending on the nation’s 66.3 million dads as reported by the U.S. Census Bureau, pampering is emerging as this holiday’s fastest growing gift category with consumers expected to spend $190 million compared to $140 million in 2008.

The table below represents the percentage change in Father’s Day spending from last year across a range of popular categories:



2008 Spending


2009 Spending



Change in Spending From 2008 – 2009

Home Improvement        $0.68        $0.49      -27.9 percent
Gift Certificates        $1.25        $0.99      -20.8 percent
Electronics        $1.29        $1.08      -16.3 percent
Tools/Appliances        $0.65        $0.59       -9.2 percent
Clothes        $1.36        $1.26       -7.4 percent
Books & CDs        $0.54        $0.52       -3.7 percent
Special Outings        $2.48        $2.44       -1.6 percent
Greeting Cards        $0.77        $0.81       5.2 percent
Sports Goods/Leisure Items        $0.59        $0.63       6.8 percent
Pampering & Personal Care        $0.14        $0.19       35.7 percent
TOTAL        $9.75        $9.00      -7.7 percent

“Traditional Father’s Day gifts, such as tools and electronics are declining this year while spa services, personal care products, and greeting cards are increasing,” explained Toon van Beeck, senior analyst with IBISWorld.  “It seems that ‘New Age’ dads are this year’s fad.”   Mr. van Beeck added, “According the U.S. Census Bureau, there are an estimated 66.3 million fathers in the nation today which demonstrates the impact spending on Father’s Day has on the U.S. economy.”

Ethical brand/products rising in demand

In Uncategorized on June 1, 2009 at 5:02 pm

 Corporation Institute (ECI) has found the current economic climate is having little effect on consumer desires towards making ‘ethical’ purchases. Demand for produce certified by organisations like the Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade is soaring in 2009. We can expect further growth in the market for industry standards and certification.

Rob Cameron, head of the Fairtrade Labelling Organisation, told the Annual Responsible Business Summit in London last month that consumption of products under the Fairtrade label is continuing to rise. Retail sales volume is expected to increase from €2.4 billion in 2007 to €3 billion when the 2008 figures are released. This rise will have been aided by partnerships with the likes of Starbucks and Cadburys.

Last month the Rainforest Alliance reported that the amount of forest and farmland certified by Rainforest Alliance will continue to soar along with demand for products that meet standards for social and environmental sustainability.

“The drive is coming from all along the value chain and especially companies. We’ve never seen more interest from companies, from consumers and from producers,” said Chris Wille, Rainforest Alliance chief of Sustainable Agriculture.

It’s clear retailers seeking to cut costs in the economic downturn, need to continue investing in environmental sustainability to retain customers.

Sharon Greene, Managing Director of RISK International told ECI that their recent studies show 72% of European consumers prefer ethical brands.

‘In order to keep customers and other stakeholders engaged with their brand, companies need to stay abreast of the recent developments in this sector’ says Pam Muckosy, Head of Research at the ECI.’

Consumers at all income levels shopping more at Dollar Stores

In Uncategorized on May 26, 2009 at 4:51 pm

The recession has been a boon to dollar stores, which attracted increased consumer spending in 2008, including spending among high and middle income shoppers, according to The Nielsen Company. Nielsen’s analysis of consumer shopping habits shows consumers at all income levels shopping more at dollar stores, with high income shoppers spending 18 percent more at dollar stores in the second half of 2008 compared to the prior year. Dollar stores are outpacing major consumer packaged goods (CPG) channels among both low and high income shoppers.

The analysis was presented today at Nielsen’s Consumer 360 conference, the CPG industry’s premier educational and networking event, attended by more than 700 industry professionals.

Dollar stores are small to mid-size stores that sell an assortment of CPG products, ranging from household cleaning products to food, usually at low prices. Originally taking their name from the fact that most products were priced at or below one dollar, today’s dollar stores offer products at a variety of price ranges, with an average of only 23 percent of products at or below the one dollar price point. Even so, the continued focus on comparatively low prices and value is drawing shoppers from all income levels. According to Nielsen, an estimated 65 million U.S. consumers shopped at dollar stores in 2008.

“The troubled economy and rising costs in healthcare, education, and food have caused everyone — even those with high incomes — to rethink where they purchase basic household goods,” said Jeff Gregori, vice president, Retail Services, The Nielsen Company. “Five years ago, shoppers weren’t sure what they would find in a dollar store. Today, dollar stores are delivering more consistent selection and value, and consumers are shopping dollar stores more regularly to fulfill their basic CPG needs.”

Despite the increase in spending among high and middle income shoppers, low income shoppers are still the primary dollar store customer. According to Nielsen’s research, 45 percent of dollar store sales are from low annual household incomes (below $30K), 47 percent from middle incomes (between $30K and $99.9K), and only eight percent from high incomes (greater than $100K).

The most loyal dollar store customers tend to have low incomes and live in small towns and rural areas or in urban centers. Senior couples, senior singles (particularly widows) and younger families with children are more likely to shop in dollar stores only occasionally, relying on other retail channels to meet the rest of their household needs.

In terms of products, dollar stores have become a regular shopping destination for everyday household staples. Among those who regularly shop at dollar stores, the most commonly purchased household items include paper goods, such as napkins and paper towels, detergent, trash bags, and cleaning and laundry supplies. The most common edible items are candy, snacks and cookies.

“With more shoppers having positive experiences at dollar stores, there is a significant opportunity for dollar stores and CPG manufacturers to build loyalty and expand into new product categories, such as food and beverages and select health and beauty care,” said Gregori. “There is also a potential growth opportunity in exploring dollar store private label offerings in both edible and non-edible products. The challenge for dollar stores and CPG manufacturers is to get the product mix right to meet the needs of their traditional customers as well as new customers with higher incomes.”