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“Save-not-Squander” + More on The Changing American Consumer

March 30, 2012 1 comment

I co-hosted the March BIG Call with a very special guest, Dr. Marianne Bickle, Chair and Director for the Center for Retailing, University of South Carolina. Armed with BIGinsight™ data, Marianne authored the new book, The Changing American Consumer (more on that in a second).

For the first half of the call, I presented new insight from our March Monthly Consumer Survey, which included:
– A rise in Consumer Confidence for the fifth consecutive month
– Fizzling spending with Practicality, Focus on Needs heating up
– The “Save-not-Squander” financial mantra
The Pain at the Pump predicament
– A BIG Forward Look at 90 day spending plans

For the second half of the Call, Marianne presented NEW findings on the Fast Food industry (which has been a hot topic lately…see also here, here, and here). Using our BIG data, Marianne analyzed consumer trends in Fast Food – by income, census region, and gender – and brought everything full circle with a discussion on The Changing American Consumer.

To listen to the recorded webinar, click here.

 

For more information on this data, please contact BIGinsight™.

Source: BIGinsight™ Monthly Consumer Survey – MAR-12 (N = 9242, 3/6 – 3/13/12)

© 2012, Prosper®

BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development Corp.

The Award for Best Portrayal of an Ideal Model Family Goes to…

March 28, 2012 1 comment

I remember watching it on TV like it was just last night. Theo sauntered down the steps with his hat and sunglasses on, lip-syncing “Night and Day” by Ray Charles all while the Huxtable family danced in concert in front of him. And when Little Rudy stole the spotlight (“Baby, Baby!”), the live audience roared.

The Cosby Show was a staple in my household growing up in the ‘80s. My sister and I were allowed to watch it because it featured what my mom considered to be a good, wholesome family. Fast forward 25+ years and it seems that the Huxtables are still viewed as the consummate household… According to a March American Pulse™ Survey, the award for best portrayal of an ideal model family goes to—The Cosby Show. Honorable mentions notably go to Modern Family and Home Improvement.

It’s interesting to look across the generations to see which TV family is perceived to be ideal. Gen Xers, Boomers and the Silent Generation alike all list The Cosby Show as portraying the essence of the American family. (Gen Y votes for Modern Family.) But shows like Father Knows Best and Leave it to Beaver pop up among the Silent folks (admittedly, I’ve never watched a single episode of either). And Home Improvement is a popular choice among Gen X and Boomers, while Gen Y is more likely to list Full House.  I would have to disagree with the latter as I tend to prefer Uncle Jesse John Stamos post-Full House (and post-Beach Boys for that matter).

In the the same American Pulse survey, respondents were asked to vote for which TV show best portrays their group of friends. Not surprisingly, Friends tops the list among Adults 18+ followed closely by one of my friends and Gen X cohort’s favorites, The Golden Girls. (As an aside, I wasn’t allowed to watch The Golden Girls growing up, due to content my mom deemed questionable. And my friend got to know the mature clan via the Lifetime Network in college.)

Friends is also top of the list for members of Gen Y and Gen X as the TV show that most closely resembles their inner circle. Big Bang Theory comes in at #2 for both. Adults that fall into the Boomers and Silent Generations are more likely to say Golden Girls and Cheers. As a card-carrying member of Gen X, I noticed a glaring difference of opinion between “us” and Gen Y… Jersey Shore made their top ten for show that most resembles their friends. Scary Interesting to imagine Snooki as my BFF.

For more information on this data, please contact BIGinsight™.

And for additional info from our latest survey:  Blacks, Asians & Hispanics Say Healthcare Reform Will Benefit Majority; Whites Disagree, According to Latest American Pulse™ Survey

Source: American Pulse™ Survey, Mar-2012, N=3892

© 2012, Prosper®

BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development Corp.

Pain at the Pump: Are $4/Gallon Fuel Prices Becoming Part of the New Normal?

March 26, 2012 1 comment

During the last week in Columbus, OH, it’s been 80 degrees and sunny on consecutive days, the state of Ohio was represented by four teams in the Sweet Sixteen (including my beloved Buckeyes), and gas prices hit $3.99. Which of these does not belong in the realm of positivity? Well, if you have no interest in Ohio basketball (or basketball in general), I guess you could go with the history-making Ohio representation in the March Madness tournament. And I’m sure if you live in Seattle you could care less what the weather is like in the Ohio capital.

But I think I’ll stick with the gas prices.

Even though we saw it coming, the gas price increase is not welcome. It’s hard to imagine that I’ll ever get used to $4/gallon and, according to our most recent American Pulse™ survey, I’m not alone. 73.7% of Adults 18+ somewhat or strongly disagree with the statement, “I have become used to high gas prices and paying more than $4/gallon would not impact by spending in other areas.”

At $4/gallon, it seems that gas prices are making an impact regardless of income level. Just under three in four (74.7%) of those with a household income level below $50K somewhat or strongly disagree, compared to slightly less (72.7%) of those with income levels $50K and up.

When asked how they expect prices to change over the next 6 months, the majority (87.3%) of Adults 18+ feel that gasoline will be somewhat or significantly more, compared to 76.9% who feel the same way about food prices and 62.7% who think clothing prices will be higher when Fall makes its arrival.

Some consumers, though, are trying to see the glass tank half full when it comes to gas prices. Slightly more than two in five (40.5%) Adults 18+ somewhat or strongly agree with the statement, “Higher gas prices will lead to more alternative energy sources in the long run.” Another point of optimism? Despite higher gas prices, people are planning to spend an average of $145.28 on Easter this year, up from $131.04 last year according to our latest research for the National Retail Federation.

In this post-recession economy, we hear the phrase “New Normal” tossed around a lot, meaning that consumers have adjusted to new spending habits and will not return to their pre-recession ways. While gas prices are also causing us to adjust those spending habits, it seems that most of us are not ready to accept $4/gallon as anything close to normal.

For more information on this data, please contact BIGinsight™.

Source: American Pulse™ Survey, MAR-12 #1, N = 3892

© 2012, Prosper®

BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development Corp.

“Fair is Fair” but is Square…well…Square?

March 22, 2012 8 comments

As any self-respecting child of the 80’s knows – “Fair is Fair.” Doesn’t the theme from that nearly 30 year old [ack!] cult classic take you back? Pat Benatar, anyone? Supergirl? An undying love for Christian Slater? But I digress…let’s hop out of the DeLorean and evaluate what really got me thinking about “Fair is Fair”:

JC Penney’s new “Fair & Square” Ad Campaign

The complete overhaul of JCP’s marketing, merchandising, and promotions plans certainly made headlines in the retail community, but what do consumers really think about this strategy switch-up? In addition to being practical and realistic in their purchasing, today’s shoppers are also “intelligent”: researching products, comparing prices, stalking sales, and couponing like crazy.  And, consumers are all the more informed when aided by their mobile devices. Knowing all this, it seems that JCP’s new “Fair & Square” approach might be as dated as a Flock of Seagulls hairdo. So who’s buying what JCP’s selling?Hot or Not? JC Penney's "Fair & Square" Ad Campaign

In our March Consumer Survey of more than 9,000 consumers, we put JC Penney’s “Fair & Square” Ad Campaign to the test in our monthly “Hot or Not?” feature. As it turns out, more deemed it “not” (58.3%) than “hot” (41.7%) – placing “Fair & Square” in the middle of the pack compared to the other items we polled this month.

But who are the two out of five customers who have at least had their interests – if not their wallets – piqued by “Fair & Square”? These shoppers are more prone to be women (59.9%), married (53.2%), middle-aged (46.7 years, on average), and earning about $56,000/year…sounds like JC Penney’s typical Women’s Clothing shopper.

Is that not interesting enough for you? Let’s take a look at “Fair & Square” from a different perspective – Women’s Clothing shoppers from competing retailers.* Interestingly, fewer shoppers at Walmart – home to the somewhat similar EDLP pricing strategy – warmed up to the idea of “Fair & Square.” Macy’s, Nordstrom, and Old Navy shoppers were relatively more excited by the concept than Kohl’s or Target loyalists:

JC Penney's "Fair & Square" Ad Campaign is HOT

From this standpoint, it appears that most shoppers have a so-so opinion of “Fair & Square” so far. Perhaps they’re walking into JCP to see what all of the fuss is about, but whether or not they’ll convert to the retailer over the long haul remains to be seen – as does the department store’s ability to retain its current customer base.

Ah, Love Retail is a Battlefield.

For more information on this data, please contact BIGinsight™.

* A selection of Women’s Clothing retailers was analyzed for this report. “Women’s Clothing Shoppers” are defined as those who shop most at a given retailer for Women’s Clothing (an unaided, write-in response).

Source: BIGinsight™ Monthly Consumer Survey – MAR-12 (N = 9242, 3/6 – 3/13)

© 2012, Prosper®

BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development Corp.

FYU: Shoes

As reported in our latest Executive Briefing, Payless has once again surpassed Walmart for the top spot in Shoes. If you are a follower of our monthly insights on this topic, you would know that while this is a rare occurrence (Payless was last #1 in NOV-09), these two footwear retailers have been tangling for the top prize for quite some time:

Shoes - Store Shopped Most Often

Is there a reason behind Payless’ failed commitment to the lead in Shoes? Why isn’t Walmart hot-to-trot in this category, as it is with Men’s and Children’s Apparel, Groceries, and Health & Beauty Care? And doesn’t that two month upswing for Kohl’s, DSW, JC Penney look interesting in the chart above? For Your Understanding this month, we’ll hoof it through these questions, courtesy of our Retail Ratings Reports*.

In just the first few pages of this handy guide, we can see that:

-  Women have a preference for Payless, while Men typically head to Walmart most often. But speaking from a strictly biased point of view (#iloveshoes), we females are the Shoe connoisseurs and not-so-much for the fellas, right?
–  The sweet spot group of customers for both Walmart and Payless earn under $50,000 per year – so these retailers are competing for a lot of the same attention.
–  Interestingly, Kohl’s is tops among consumers in the lucrative $50,000+ and $75,000+ income brackets (though Payless is a close #2 with $50,000+ wage earners.)
–  Payless is the victor among the young crowd (18-34 year olds) and lands about a point ahead of #2 Walmart with shoppers 35 to 54 years old. Walmart is the favorite among those 55+.
–  Among the fashion forward set (a growing group of shoppers, according to our latest findings), Payless is most popular, followed by DSW, Foot Locker (OK, maybe a few men do enjoy shopping for Shoes), Macy’s, and finally Walmart. The competition is closer between Walmart and Payless among those who prefer value and comfort as well as shoppers sporting traditional styling.
–  Payless is tops in the Northeast and out West, while Walmart holds the Southern stronghold. Walmart leads by just a point over Payless and Kohl’s in the Midwest.

But let’s look a bit deeper with the Consumer Equity Index™ (CEI). The CEI – available exclusively within the Retail Ratings Reports – is a year-over-year index showing growth or decline of Consumer Preference Share (the % we collect each month for the store shopped most often). Here’s a key:

CEI = 100 (flat)
CEI = 105 (5% growth)
CEI = 95 (5% decline)

Our latest CEI ratings for Shoes show that Walmart is slipping in a segment in which Payless shines (along with Kohl’s and DSW and Macy’s and JC Penney):  the all-important and all-knowing female segment. Here, Payless has experienced near 12% growth while Walmart is suffering from a near 20% decline.Consumer Equity Index for Shoes - Women

BTW, your eyes aren’t deceiving you: female consumer preference share for DSW has increased 30%+ over March 2011. Macy’s and Kohl’s are also excelling among Women with nearly 20% growth apiece. Rising share for JC Penney is more in line with Payless at about 12%. #fiercecompetition

And, recall that sweet spot of core customers for both Walmart and Payless? If you were to analyze the CEI ratings for those earning under $50,000/year, you would find that Payless’ share is gaining, while Walmart’s is waning.

Now you understand: Payless is gaining ground over Walmart with two key demographics for both of these discount-oriented retailers: 1.) Women and 2.) Under $50,000 wage earners. Growing competition from the likes of Kohl’s, DSW, and JC Penney may be preventing Payless from gaining surer footing as the lead in this category.

Bottom Line: I clearly need more shoes Stay tuned for further developments in this hot category.

For more information on this data, please contact BIGinsight™.

Source: BIGinsight™ Monthly Consumer Survey, MAR-11 – MAR-12

* Retail Ratings Reports are available monthly for the following categories: Women’s Clothing, Men’s Clothing, Children’s Clothing, Shoes, Linens/Bedding/Draperies, Electronics, Hardware, Children’s Toys, Sporting Goods, Groceries, Health & Beauty Care, Prescription Drugs.

© 2012, Prosper®

BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development Corp.

Generation Gap: Confidence Defined

The components that contribute to confidence can differ from person to person. Is the stability of the national economy most important? Where do personal concerns with employment, finances, and the future come into play? Does the stock market influence anyone’s sentiment regarding the economy?

In this new analysis of the more than 9,000 respondents who completed our March Consumer Survey, we’re taking a look at how consumers define confidence. And, to make it even more interesting, we’re dissecting this data by generation:

Silent (born 1945 or earlier)
Boomers (born 1946 – 1964)
Gen X (born 1965 – 1982)
Gen Y (born 1983 – 1993)

Among adults in general, “Trust in the stability of the national economy” was deemed to have the most influence when determining one’s level of confidence (49.5%). “Trust that your future financial situation will improve” (44.3%), “Trust in employment conditions and your ability to get or keep a job” (42.5%), and “Trust in a positive future for your family” (39.9%) followed.

Trust in the Stability of the National Economy

While stability of the national economy was important across all generations, it is most valued among Silents (60.5%) and Boomers (55.3%) – and was each of these segments’ top confidence influencer. The younger sects, though, were more likely to define confidence from a more personal perspective. Nearly half of Gen Y-ers (46.4%) said that employment conditions/ability to keep a job was most influential; this was also the #1 confidence component for Gen X (45.8%).

Trust in Employment Conditions and Your Ability to Get or Keep a Job

Gens X (42.6%) and Y (43.3%) were also more likely to add “Trust in a positive future for your family” to their confidence equation compared to Boomers (38.3%) and particularly Silents (33.3%). “Trust in the future place of employment” was important to nearly a third of each generation, save for the Silent generation (13.4%) – presumably with retirement in sight, or at hand, for these consumers.

Additionally, the older the generation, the more likely that macro-environmental issues play a role in defining confidence. “Trust in government’s international policy,” “Trust in stock market,” “Trust in government’s domestic policy,” and “Trust in regional economy” peaked among Silents and tapered off with declining age.

No matter how you define confidence, though, the slow improvement we’re seeing for consumer sentiment (currently at 34.8%) is a step in the right direction for an economy – and a population – that have been struggling for several years. Stay tuned to see if this optimism can be sustained throughout the springtime or if rising gas prices with quash this good feeling.

Very Confident/Confident in Chances for a Strong Economy

For more information on this data, please contact BIGinsight™.

Source: BIGinsight™ Monthly Consumer Survey – MAR-12 (N = 9242, 3/6 – 3/13)

© 2012, Prosper®

BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development Corp.

Is Pinterest Your New Obsession?

March 13, 2012 1 comment

About two months ago my friend asked me why I wasn’t on Pinterest.  Honestly…I had heard of it but didn’t really know what it was, and I didn’t have the time or desire to figure it out.  I’ve always been the last of my friends to IM, text, join Facebook, get a Smartphone, etc.  Why would Pinterest be any different?!  It just so happened to be a dreary Sunday that I received an invite to join Pinterest.  Other than the typical day of cleaning, laundry, trip to the grocery store and family time, I had nothing else to do…why not check it out!  Needless to say, my household chores got put on hold!  That trip to the grocery store had to wait until Monday because I had to start the shopping list OVER with all the new recipes I found!

According to the November 2011 BIGinsight™ Monthly Consumer Survey, 19.9% of Females 25-34 said Pinterest was a “HOT” trend.  [Yes, I happen to fall into this age break.]  Females 18-24 follow close behind at 17% and 13.6% of Moms find Pinterest to be “HOT”.

Did I mention that Pinterest turned that dreary Sunday into a Glorious Sunny Day?!  [In my head that is!]  Once I figured out how to create “Boards” and “Pin” what I liked…I was off and pinning (LOL!)  I have found new ways to organize, creative/easy dinner recipes, Peanut Butter Brownies that are to die for, wedding gift ideas, cleaning home remedies, holiday DIY decorations, fashion tips, parenting ideas…I can go on and on and on!  As you can see below in a few of my favorite boards…

Typically, I log on to my account 2-3 times a week, and have to limit how much time I spend on there.  Time gets away from me too easily and I tend to get consumed by the endless amount of pinning!  According to a recent American Pulse™ Survey, 8.3% of Females 24-35 say they log in to Pinterest 2-3 times a week.  10.2% of Females 18-24 frequent the site more than once a day–they must be more “pinterested” than I am!

 

For more information on this data, please contact BIGinsight™.

Source: BIGinsight™ Monthly Consumer Survey – NOV-11 (N = 8502, 11/1 – 11/8/11)

Source:  American Pulse™ Survey – February 2012 (N=3349, 2/13 – 2/20/12)

© 2012, Prosper®

BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development.

It’s me and Jamie Oliver against the World

Some of you reading this may be familiar with Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. If you aren’t, the show follows Jamie Oliver in his quest to bring healthy lunches to America’s public schools. Even if you haven’t seen it, I’m sure you are aware that school lunches aren’t necessarily the best for kids, albeit deemed sufficient and even “healthy” by school officials.

Source: http://www.jamieoliver.com/us/foundation/jamies-food-revolution/bestworstlunch

This issue is close to my heart. I have two boys, ages three and one. People tell me that before I know it, they will be starting public school. When my husband and I were deciding where to build our new home, school districts played a huge part in our decision. Did it matter that the district was rated as one of the best in our state? Not to me. I came from a public school that had its challenges. It wasn’t even close to being considered a top school in our area, let alone the state. I turned out okay. But I do remember dipping pizza and french fries in ranch dressing. And eating slop sloppy joes that were probably packed with pink slime. This brings me to why we (maybe a little more me) chose the school district that we did–their food. They actually have fresh food, prepared daily using organic products when possible. They use produce from local farmers to promote sustainability and they offer choices, including vegetarian, every day. Ahhh, it’s like Jamie’s and my dream.

But here is where I seem to differ from, say, the entire country. I would rather my children have good school lunches, rather than a good education. I’m clearly in the minority here. According to a recent American Pulse™ Survey, an overwhelming 94.3% of Adults 18+ say they would rather kids walk away from high school with a quality education than having ate well for all those years. But I think the two go hand-in-hand. A school district that offers its children lessons in health and wellbeing would certainly offer a strong academic structure. And even if I’m wrong, I can supplement their studies at home. When I was in primary school, my parents made sure I went to class and did my homework. And when I struggled, they were there.

Either way, there’s no guarantee that my children are going to grow up to be doctors or lawyers. We may find that they are good at building things or that they like to fix cars. These professions aren’t necessarily grounded in Anatomy, Trigonometry or French. And from what I hear, the job market isn’t great right now for business professionals. We may find that skilled trades are in even more demand in 15-20 years.

But my children’s health is of the utmost importance to me, even more so than what they decide to do to make “monies,” as my oldest would say. With more than one in five adults unhappy with their overall health, a change at the beginning of our children’s lives – at the school lunch table – might help improve this sad statistic in the long run.

And here is something that at least one-third of the country agrees with me on: 32.8% say that school lunches are somewhat/very unhealthy. Even more (58.2%) say lunch programs need to be fixed. 39.5% say it’s up to parents to fix it, followed by the U.S. Department of Education (36.7%) and their state’s education department (36.4%).

Only 9.3% say leave it up to The Naked Chef. @Jamie Oliver – if you’re reading this, I got your back.

For more information on this data, please contact BIGinsight™.

Source: American Pulse™ Survey, FEB-12 #2, N = 4185

© 2012, Prosper®

BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development Corp.

Pain at the Pump: At Least Gas Prices Aren’t $5/Gallon… Yet

With gas prices like this, who needs really needs a vehicle? A question I’m sure a lot of us have been asking ourselves lately

Unfortunately, public transportation isn’t always an option and I know the 20 mile bicycle ride to work doesn’t sound like fun to me. (Maybe I’ll change my mind if prices hit the scary expectations for the summer.) So what other changes are consumers making as prices continue to creep upward?

Taking fewer trips, shopping for sales more often, shopping closer to home, and using coupons more are the most recent top responses from consumers when asked what they are doing as a result of fluctuating gas prices. While taking fewer trips, shopping for sales, and shopping closer to home haven’t quite reached the summer of ’08 levels (yet), using coupons more often has certainly remained a popular response, peaking at 42.1% in September 2011.

As a result of fluctuating gas prices, are you doing any of the following?

The dark blue line in the chart shows the actual average gas prices for the first week of each month according to the Energy Information Association.

When comparing these responses to actual gas prices, there is one obvious visual trend to make note of. When gas prices dropped from an average of $3.54/gallon in October 2008 to below $2/gallon in December 2008, the percentage of consumers who were taking fewer shopping trips, shopping for sales more often, shopping closer to home, and using coupons more did NOT take a drastic decline like the prices at the pump did. Instead, after just being slapped in the face by the realities of the recession, consumers began to adjust to the “new normal.”

What will these numbers look like at $5/gallon? Stay tuned and we just might find out (eek!).

To learn more about how consumers are being impacted at the pump and other economic indicators, check out the Consumer Vital Signs InsightCenter™ at www.ConsumerVitalSigns.com.

For more information on this data, please contact BIGinsight™.

Source: BIGinsight™ Monthly Consumer Survey – MAR-07 – FEB-12 (FEB-12: N = 8716, 2/1 – 2/8/12)

© 2012, Prosper®

BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development Corp.

Generation Gap: Get Your Green On

March 8, 2012 1 comment

With St. Patrick’s Day falling on a Saturday this year, it appears that Irish eyes will be smiling on restaurants, bars, and retailers hoping to rake in the greenbacks this year. According to our latest research for the National Retail Federation, 54.4% of consumers plan to get their green on this month, the highest in our survey’s history.

But with nearly 9,000 respondents partaking in our February Consumer Survey, we’ve got a pot of gold data to share with you on this subject, so let’s take a look at St. Patty’s Day from the generational perspective:

Silent (born 1945 or earlier)
Boomers (born 1946 – 1964)
Gen X (born 1965 – 1982)
Gen Y (born 1983 – 1993)

This may come as no surprise, but it’s the youngsters who are on the hunt for four-leaf clovers this month. More than seven in ten (72.7%) Gen Y-ers plan to celebrate the holiday this year, while three out of five (63.5%) of those in Gen X say the same. Boomers (43.1%) and Silents (36.9%) index below average in their enthusiasm for the Irish-themed holiday.

Among those celebrating, the wearing o’ the green is the overwhelmingly preferred activity, with Gen Y (87.3%) most wanting to avoid the pinch patrol on March 17. These youngsters are also most likely of our groups to attend a party at a bar or restaurant (37.1%) or attend a private party (27.1%). One-third (32.9%) of Gen X-ers celebrating St. Patrick’s Day plans to head to a bar or restaurant, and this percentage continues to decline with rising age:

Celebrating St. Patrick's Day at a Bar/Restaurant

So where does that leave the older generations? Sipping their green beer at home, of course! Nearly 40% of the Silent and Boomer generations plan to enjoy their corned beef and cabbage at ye olde homestead [#oopsEnglishnotIrish]. Among Gen Y, fewer than one in four (23.7%) are planning to make a special meal:

Celebrating St. Patrick's Day with a Special Meal

Head over to Retail’s BIG Blog for the full report on St. Patrick’s Day 2012 from the National Retail Federation.

For more information on this data, please contact BIGinsight™.

Source: BIGinsight™ Monthly Consumer Survey – FEB-12 (N = 8716, 2/1 – 2/8/12)

© 2012, Prosper®

BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development Corp.

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