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Graduation 2012: Paper or Plastic?

May 31, 2012 1 comment

Perhaps thanks in large part to retreating pump prices, 2012’s fresh batch of high school and college students won’t be left out in the cold this year, at least when it comes to gifts [good luck with that frigid employment environment, though].

According to the latest insights we collected for the National Retail Federation, consumers are expected to spend more than $4.7 billion dollars on graduation gifts this year, eclipsing the $3.8-$3.9 billion totals we’ve witnessed for the past several years. That’s about $100 per gift-giver, a ten percent increase in spend over 2011 ($90.42), and an amount more in line with what we recorded before consumers felt the full force of the economic fall-out in late 2008.

Average Total Spend for Graduation Gifts

When it comes to bagging an actual gift, it looks like paper (cash) or plastic (gift cards) is in store for graduates. Nearly three out of five (57.6%) graduation gift givers are planning to congratulate with cash, which has remained relatively consistent over the course of this survey’s six year history.

About a third of plan to reward graduates with gift cards (33.1%); this plastic payment seems to be enjoying a gifting renaissance for 2012, up 17% from the survey low set just a year ago (28.3%). With a wide variety of retailer gift cards available in many mainstream food and drug stores, convenience may be tied to gift cards’ surge in popularity; however, perhaps it’s also attributable to rewards sometimes tied to gift card buying (gas or food discounts, the ability to purchase with credit card rewards, etc.) – a win, win for both the buyer and the recipient, right?

Percent Planning to Buy Gift Cards for Graduates

And, this post wouldn’t be complete without a blast from the past: back when I graduated, phone cards (you know, with the long-distance minutes) were the coveted commodity, not gift cards. My, technology has come a long way [in such a short amount of time]! #congratsgrads

For more on Graduation 2012, view the National Retail Federation’s post: Graduation gift giving to top $4.7 billion in 2012.

Source: BIGinsight™ Monthly Consumer Survey – MAY-12 (N = 8789, 5/2 – 5/8/12)

© 2012, Prosper®

BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development Corp.

Mobile Users Speak…to their devices!

May 29, 2012 3 comments

Do you ever find yourself driving down the highway, asking your smartphone for directions to a restaurant or a friend’s house? 3 in 4 Mobile Users say they utilize at least some form of voice activation on their smartphones or tablets, for a variety of uses from commands (“Call Mom”) to personal assistants (“Siri, what restaurants are nearby?”), according to the latest mobile survey from Prosper Mobile Insights.

The most popular voice features are Internet searches and directions. Nearly 1 in 3 (32.0%) regularly speaks to a device to search the Web and another 20.7% ask their smartphone or tablet for directions. 14.6% say they regularly talk to text, 12.8% utilize personal assistants and 11.6% use voice commands often:

Among the 74.4% who use voice activation at least occasionally, most (63.1%) are somewhat or very satisfied with the voice capabilities on their mobile devices. However, about a fourth of this group (23.8%) is neutral—they are neither satisfied nor dissatisfied. Perhaps these folks just haven’t used voice activation to the fullest? Maybe they’ve read too many autocorrect mishaps? Or maybe other smartphone and tablet features are just more alluring. Mobile Users say texting, Internet access, calling and email are the top features they can’t live without, along with GPS and of course, apps.

Even more insights are available on your tablet via the Prosper Mobile InsightCenter. You can install the app on your iPad or download to your Android™ tablet. No tablet? No problem! View the InsightCenter online here.

Android™ is a trademark of Google, Inc.

Source: Prosper Mobile Insights™ Mobile Survey, April 2012, N=328

© 2012, Prosper®

The Bloom is Off the Rose for Confidence + 4 Key Insights about Hispanic Consumers

This month, my co-host for the BIG Call was Dianne Kremer, Senior Analyst for BIGinsight. Dianne is also the editor of Prosper China’s Quarterly Briefings on Chinese Consumers and is a frequency quoted expert on our American Pulse insights.

For the first half of the Call, I presented new insights from our May Monthly Consumer survey, which included:
- The bloom is off the rose for Consumer Confidence, declining two points from April
- Practicality, Focus on Necessities declined from April…so was May’s “dip” in Confidence a short-term “blip” or are consumers having a sluggish spending response to sagging sentiment?
- Decreasing Overall Spending lowered from the extreme we saw in April
- One in three consumers feels “worse off” financially compared to the previous year
- Department Store Domination in Women’s Clothing? (see also our latest press release on this topic)
- A BIG Forward Look at 90 day spending plans

And for the second half of the Call, Dianne discussed four key insights among Hispanic consumers:
- Higher Confidence, yet lower expectations for the Employment Outlook
- More positive about Personal Financial Situations
- Practical, but willing to spend
- Word of Mouth is key

To listen to the recorded webinar, click here.



For the full, complimentary May 2012 BIG Call slide deck, please click here.

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

Source: BIGinsight™ Monthly Consumer Survey – MAY-12 (N = 8789, 5/2 – 5/8/12)

© 2012, Prosper®

BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development Corp.

Three Wishes: A Remodeling Fairytale

The arrival of Spring each year seems to provide a lot of us with the kick in the pants we need to get things done around the house. Maybe it’s the warmer weather. Or the birds chirping – you know, Whistle While You Work and all of that Disney folderol that’s been ingrained in us. (Side note: I’m still looking for a few [cartoon] birds and squirrels to help me with the chores à la Snow White). Anyone motivated by the smell of the fresh-off-the-farm mulch? Much to the chagrin of my husband, it puts me in the mood to buy LOTS of new annuals.

At any rate, Spring just seems ripe for DIY. The problem for many of us, though, is that there aren’t enough hours in the day (…weeks…months…years?) to make all of our DIY wishes come true. And let’s face it, we’re still waiting on our fairy godmothers to grant that ultimate request – the means to hire out all of this work and have it done before retirement.

But, if I could make three wishes for my home, I would have no problem coming up with a list:

Retaining Wall WIP

Our retaining wall WIP…please disregard the weeds #keepingitreal

1. A retaining wall along our front walk. My genie husband is hard at work on this as I type – I guess dreams do come true!
2. A carpet-less second floor (and don’t forget the stairway). I have BAD allergies, and the previous owners loved dogs and cats, so I consider this a medical necessity. (Do you think my insurance would cover new hardwoods?)
3. A remodeled master bath. The layout is just strange, and every gal deserves a spa tub, right?

For our May Consumer survey, we [quasi] granted our nearly 9,000 respondents with one makeover wish for their homes. While Master Bathrooms (12.2%) and Outdoor Spaces (7.0%) made the Top 5, one in five consumers (20.7%) agreed that a Kitchen remodel is at the top of their “To Do” lists. Living/Family Rooms (9.2%) and Master Bedrooms (5.4%) were also high priority. And, more men set precedence on their Basements (5.1%) compared to average; must be all of those unfinished Man Caves [insert chest thump here].

Which area in your home is most in need of a makeover or remodeling job?

Now where are we drawing inspiration for our fabulous new spaces? Magazines (43.7%) and Television (33.6%) are the top culprits idea starters, followed by Instore/Showroom Browsing (26.8%), Online Searches (24.8%), and HGTV (20.7%). The popular cable channel was even a Top 5 pick for Men – but we’re probably talking more Holmes on Homes here and less Sarah’s House…probably. Somewhat surprisingly, Social Media (Facebook, Pinterest, etc.) piques the inspiration of just 6.6% of consumers, only slightly ahead of one-time domestic maven Martha Stewart (5.0%). Blogs fared worse, with just 3.6% following for DIY ideas [though this blog changed my life].

Where do you look for design inspiration or ideas for your home?

Interestingly, more than one in five (23.3%) said they wouldn’t remodel a thing, as they were perfectly satisfied with their homes [so maybe some of us do live in fairytales]. This number was higher among men (25.8%), while females were less likely to be so contented (21.0%)…well, “Honey-Do” lists generally aren’t aimed at the fairer gender. #justsayin

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

Source: BIGinsight™ Monthly Consumer Survey – MAY-12 (N = 8789, 5/2 – 5/8/12)

© 2012, Prosper®

BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development Corp.

Pain at the Pump: Great Expectations

May 18, 2012 2 comments

Earlier this month, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) significantly downgraded the forecast for summer (April through September) pump prices by 16 cents per gallon to $3.79. With the EIA changing their expectations for the summer, are consumers doing the same? Will the pain at the pump impact Memorial Day? And how do gas price expectations impact consumer behavior?

Let’s start with the upcoming holiday weekend. Less than half (43.3%) of Adults 18+ indicated that increased gas prices will impact their spending for Memorial Day, down more than 10 points from last year (53.7%) when gas prices were more than 30 cents higher on average. This is on par with May of 2007 (43.2%) when gas prices were $3.10 on average and below May of 2008 (56.4%) when prices were $3.66 per gallon. What a difference a few years can make; $3.10 per gallon would feel like a clearance sale at this point.

Note: The EIA gas price data is from the first week of each month which corresponds with the timing of the survey collection.

What do consumers expect prices to be by the time the holiday weekend has passed? On average, Adults 18+ anticipate that prices will be $3.95 by the end of May. Consumers have lowered their expectations after an increase in April ($4.17). While this is still above the $3.79 average expectation the EIA recently released, it’s important to note that they announced their new forecast on May 8, 2012, the same day we completed fielding the Monthly Survey. Stay tuned for June to find out if consumer expectations continue to lower and if these decreasing pump price forecasts help boost their confidence in the economy after it fizzled in May.

Why all this talk about expectations for gas prices? Do they really matter? In the April BIG Call, we learned that the answer is yes. When gas prices exceed consumer expectations, they make changes quickly. The chart below shows the percentage of consumers who said they are driving less because of gas prices compared to actual gas prices. From February to March of 2012, we see a more than ten point jump in those who are thinking twice before putting their foot on the gas pedal. While there was a 30 cent upswing in the average gas price during this time, the percentage who were driving less remained flat from March to April when prices increased 15 cents per gallon. Wouldn’t we expect to see some sort of increase in consumers driving less often in April if the 30 cent upswing in March had such a dramatic effect?

After taking a closer look, we came across a BIG insight. The differentiating factor from February to March is that gas prices exceeded consumer expectations. In February, consumers had only expected gas prices to be $3.69 per gallon by the end of the month. By the first week of March, they were at $3.85 per gallon. So, the consumer expectation was below the actual gas price. In March, consumers had an expectation of $4.08 per gallon by the end of the month and prices were only $4 per gallon by the first week of April. The expectation was higher than the actual price.

 *The actual gas price data is from the first week of the following month.

To keep a pulse on how gas prices and other economic issues are impacting consumers, sign up for the Consumer Vital Signs InsightCenter™.

Source: BIGinsight™ Monthly Consumer Survey – MAY-12 (N = 8789, 5/2 – 5/8/12)

© 2012, Prosper®

BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development Corp.

Two-Thirds of Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods Shoppers Express Health Happiness

May 16, 2012 1 comment

Is there something in that Two-Buck Chuck? New BIGinsight™ analysis reveals that Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods shoppers* are happier with their health** compared to mainstream grocery shoppers at Kroger, Publix, and the nation’s top pantry supplier – Walmart.

Totally Happy/Happy with Health

While Publix shoppers trail the likes of Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s in terms of health happiness, customers at this grocer – known for its quality assortment of items ‘round the perimeter – track ahead of both Kroger and Walmart.

On the flip side, nearly a quarter (23.1%) of Walmart shoppers feels “unhappy” or “totally unhappy” with the state of their health. Kroger shoppers aren’t far behind with this sad-faced sentiment (20.5%), while far fewer (11.5%) Trader Joe’s shoppers are worried about their well-being.

Totally Unhappy/Unhappy with Health

Interestingly, shoppers with a proclivity toward natural and organic goods aren’t prone to shunning that fast food guilty pleasure. In fact, nearly half of Whole Foods’ customers (45.6%) patronize a fast food restaurant once a week or more often, higher than the overall average (39.0%) as well as – surprise! – Walmart shoppers (44.1%). Trader Joe’s (43.3%), Kroger (46.7%), and Publix (42.0%) each index above the national rate as well.

But it’s all about the choices we make though, right? While McDonald’s is the preferred fast food restaurant across all of our shopper groups [gotta love those fries], Subway – with its arguably fresher/healthier menu – indexes higher among Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s customers. In addition, these organically-minded shoppers place more importance on a quick service restaurant’s healthy menu options and food quality than average, while Walmart patrons are more apt to opt for lower pricing and a value menu.

Finally, it’s evident that Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s shoppers aren’t achieving health satisfaction without any effort. Nearly ninety percent of each of these customer groups report doing something about their health, such as watching calorie or fat intake, exercising regularly, or opting for more organic foods. Working up a sweat is key; in fact, Trader Joe’s shoppers are 50% more likely to hit the gym compared Walmart customers. More than a quarter of those bagging their groceries at the big discounter (27.5%) say they don’t do anything with regard to their health, the highest of all the groups analyzed for this report.

Exercise Regularly

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

This post was inspired by our original analysis of Fast Food customers’ health happiness: One in Four McDonald’s Customers Unhappy with Their Health.

* Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Kroger, Publix, and Walmart shoppers were analyzed for this report.  Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s “shoppers” are defined as respondents who indicated that they shop these retailers most often for Organic Products (an unaided, write-in response). Kroger, Publix, and Walmart “shoppers” are defined as respondents who indicated that they shop these retailers most often for Groceries (first or second choice), also unaided, write-in responses. Shopper groups analyzed in this report are not mutually exclusive.

** Respondents were posed with this question: On a scale of 1-5 with 1 being “Totally Unhappy,” and 5 being “Totally Happy,” how would you rate your happiness level with your Health?

Source: BIGinsight™ Monthly Consumer Survey – MAY-12 (N = 8789, 5/2 – 5/8/12)

© 2012, Prosper®

BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development Corp.

Consumer Buzz: Touring the Autobahn

May 14, 2012 2 comments

When we last took a spin in our monthly auto data, we found that Subaru owners were the most likely to recommend their vehicles to friends and family. While that’s still true of the 18 vehicle nameplates* we analyzed for this new report, we thought it would be interesting to add some new faces to the mix – and analyze this data by each automaker’s country of origin.

Auto NPS Index - KeyBefore we begin today’s tour, though, let’s review some of the details. By applying the Net Promoter Score (NPS)** metrics system to our May Consumer Survey data, we can see which drivers (i.e. Ford owners, Toyota owners, etc.)  are buzzing about their current cars as well as which think their autos are wrecks. For this new analysis, we took the percentage of a nameplate’s detractors and subtracted them from the number of those who actively promote their current automaker, which helps us evaluate the strength of a brand’s image. We then took these scores and indexed them to the national average of ALL vehicle owners, +18.5%. Please note that all graphics are based on the Net Promoter Score Index, where an index of 100 = average.

First Up: Germany

When one thinks of the European nameplates hailing from this country, the words quality and/or luxury may come to mind…that is, unless you ask a few BMW owners. While each of the German automakers we took a look at (BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Volkswagen) scored a positive Net Promoter Score, BMW’s rating was the only one to fall below the national average for all vehicle owners (index = 93). The force is definitely with Volkswagen in this grouping [still loving that Super Bowl commercial], where the automaker secures a NPS which nearly doubles that of the overall average (index = 191).

Auto NPS Index - Germany

Next Stop: Japan

What might be more impressive than VW’s 191 NPS index? Try Toyota’s 274. The world’s largest automaker is a word-of-mouth hit with consumers, as is its luxury counterpart, Lexus (index = 261), and one of its staunchest competitors, Honda (index = 239). Of course, the aforementioned Subaru drives away the winner in this region (index = 287). Overall, owners of Japanese nameplates are positively abuzz about their vehicles, each scoring above average:

Auto NPS Index - Japan

Final Destination: United States

In general, drivers seem to have love-hate relationships with the BIG 3. On one hand, it’d be great to “buy American,” but on the other, these automakers have been plagued by bankruptcies, inflated prices, as well as safety and quality issues [insert any number of vehicular anagrams here]. Among some of the U.S.-based nameplates, though, we can find a ray of light; Net Promoter Scores for both Cadillac and Ford index above average. Unfortunately, Chevrolet, Buick, Lincoln, Chrysler, and Dodge suffer from below average ratings. In fact, out of the 18 nameplates we analyzed for this blog, Dodge was the lone automaker suffering from a negative Net Promoter Score (NPS = -0.6%), which means its detractors slightly outweighed its promoters. Lincoln and Chrysler just barely eked out positive ratings with 5.3% and 7.1% Net Promoter Scores, respectively. So while the Detroit automakers are working on turnarounds, it does seem that they continue to be hindered by Americans’ perceptions of their vehicles.

Auto NPS Index - USA

All told, it’s evident that the BIG 3 still have A LOT of work to do when it comes to improving their brand image with consumers, which is key because we’re the ones ultimately doing the buying, right?

Auto NPS Index - Overall

*Select Currently Owned Vehicle Nameplates (Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick, Ford, Lincoln, Chrysler, Dodge, Toyota, Lexus, Honda, Acura, Nissan, Infiniti, Subaru) were analyzed for this blog. Respondent counts for each nameplate ranged from N = 42 to N = 1085.

**Net Promoter, NPS and Net Promoter Score are trademarks of Satmetrix Systems, Inc., Bain & Company, and Fred Reichheld

The NPS which takes a simple question–Would you recommend us to a friend?–has helped countless organizations better understand “promoters” and “detractors” and paint a clear picture of their company’s performance through the eyes of their customers. By applying the Net Promoter Score*, executives can identify their customer base and move beyond “sufficient” to brand loyalty and growth.

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

Source: BIGinsight™ Monthly Consumer Survey – MAY-12 (N = 8789, 5/2 – 5/8/12)

© 2012, Prosper®

BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development Corp.

Have You Been Briefed for May?

Early each month, we release our Executive Briefing – complimentary topline insights from our latest Monthly Consumer Survey of more than 8,000 consumers.

May 2012 BIG Executive Briefing

Click to view this month’s Executive Briefing

Yesterday marked the release of our edition for May. Here’s what you may have missed:

- The bloom is off the rose for Consumer Confidence…we saw signs of dampening sentiment in April (when confidence flatlined after five consecutive months of improvement), but sentiment for the economy declined two points from last month.

- Nearly half maintains a penchant toward pragmatic spending, but this has declined four points from April. This figure remains elevated from May-11 and May-10, suggesting that market uncertainties (unemployment, gas prices, economic health, etc.) are still influencing spending.

- While plans to decrease overall spending have lowered from the extreme we saw in April, cutting back remains at the fiscal forefront.

- Drivers are anticipating an average price of $3.95/gal as we approach Memorial Day, lowering from the $4.17/gal expected at the end of April. Despite the recent declines in the cost of fueling up, the vast majority of consumers say their spending in other areas is still impacted by prices at the pump.

- The Women’s Clothing battle is too close to call this month…after three consecutive turns as the leader in this category, Kohl’s shares the top spot with Walmart in May.

- Are there cracks in Home Depot’s foundation? We examine the big builder and its competition in this month’s Consumer Migration Index.

- Is Mom in for a treat on May 13? Six month purchase intentions are on the rise for all on our BIG Tickets items this month compared to May-11. A Mother’s Day favorite – Jewelry – is up 30%+ from last year.

- Move over Iron Man…Marvel’s The Avengers is no match for our favorite nonagenarian.

To sign up to receive the monthly BIGinsight™ Executive Briefing, please click here.

And, to view the latest BIG Executive Briefing in its entirety: May 2012.

Source: BIGinsight™ Monthly Consumer Survey – MAY-12 (N = 8789, 5/2 – 5/8/12)

© 2012, Prosper®

BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development Corp.

Gen Y’s Financial Lessons from Forrest Gump

By now we all should be aware that Gen Y* is a group of savers. According to our May Monthly Consumer Survey, more than two in five (41.9%) of these youngsters maintain plans to pad their piggy banks over the next three months. This compares to fewer than a third of Gen-Xers (29.6%) and just one in five Boomers (22.9%). (Silents clock in at 14.8%, but you’ve got to account for the large proportion of retirees in this group.)

Planning to Increase Savings Over the Next 3 Months

Maybe Gen Y hasn’t taken on enough life “experience” in the form of children, mortgages, loans, credit, etc. to put paying down debt at the forefront of their financial priorities. Maybe Gen Y is still relying on $upport from their Boomer and Gen X parents while working their way up the pay scale. Or perhaps – having just experienced the Great Recession – Gen Y has learned a few lessons from its elder generations. Let’s examine some of these would-be lessons à la one of my faves, Forrest Gump.

[While I do realize that the oldest members of Gen Y were 11 when this classic hit the theaters, please...just humor me on this.]

Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get. Financial crisis, anyone? How about the housing meltdown, 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, dot-com bubble, war in the Middle East, or rocketing oil prices? [OK, we should have been prepared for a few of those.] Utopian society we are not; on both macro- and micro-environmental levels, we are always going to have something to be worried about. The difference between Gen Y and its older counterparts, though, is that the youngsters seemed to be preparing themselves for life’s uncertainties by improving their financial foundation. When asked to compare their personal financial situation to the previous year, more Gen Y-ers called their monetary “better off” (27.4%) than “worse off” (25.8%). In each of the older generations, those “worse off” outweighed those “better off.” Nearly two in five Boomers (38.0%) say they are “worse off” financially compared to this time last year, while just 14.5% think they are “better off.”

Stupid is as stupid does. Consumers buying on credit drove much of the spending growth we saw in the pre-recession 2000. Keeping up with the Joneses and living beyond their means left a lot of families in a lurch – and unable to keep up with their bills once the value of their McMansions plummeted, credit card fees and interest rates ratcheted up, and pink slips put many on the unemployment line. “Save not squander” might be the Gen Y financial mantra, as more than two in five (42.8%) say they are saving enough for future needs. This figure eclipses the rate of the second-highest financially prepared generation (Silents, at 31.0%) by a full 38%. Just over one in four Gen X-ers feel they are contributing enough to their piggy banks, while Boomers are the least likely to feel secure in their savings.

I am Saving Enough for Future Needs

It happens. Is anyone 100% secure in their place of employment? Unfortunately, a high unemployment rate is currently a fact of life, and – let’s face it – the current 8.1% doesn’t account for those underemployed or discouraged workers. Gen Y may be having trouble securing their first jobs, working up the pay scale, and avoiding LOFO [last on first off] layoffs. But in the event that “it” does hit the fan, this generation is making the most of the income that they have – by saving at rates higher than any other group. Nearly half (45.4%) plan to save more than 10% of their annual income, much higher than Gen X-ers (31.3%) and Boomers (22.9%). Of course, this may in part be the result of fewer financial obligations [*coughs* mortgages…children], but at least Gen Y is consciously saving and not burning through their paychecks, right?

And that’s all I have to say about that.

Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.

Inspiration for this post wasn’t completely random…I recently visited the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. in Miami.

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

* Generations were defined for this analysis in the following manner:

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

Source: BIGinsight™ Monthly Consumer Survey – MAY-12 (N = 8789, 5/2 – 5/8/12)

© 2012, Prosper®

BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development Corp.

FYU: Department Store Domination?

As readers of our monthly Executive Briefing are already aware, 2012 has been a pretty exciting year for Kohl’s when it comes to the Women’s Clothing store shopped most often by the more than 8,000 respondents in our Monthly Consumer Survey. When we last visited this category in November 2011, Kohl’s had – for the first time in the history of our 10 year survey – surpassed Walmart as the top store shopped for this category. While discounter Walmart had the edge in January, April marked the third month in a row that Kohl’s has led this category – and it looks like the department store darling might be widening the gap between itself and the big discounter:

Women's Clothing - Kohl's v. Walmart

So what’s the deal with Walmart? Where is Kohl’s growing? And, are JC Penney or Macy’s posing immediate threats to the top two? For Your Understanding this month, we’re taking the Women’s Clothing catfight to the mats, courtesy of our Retail Ratings Reports*.

In just the first few pages of this handy guide, we can see that:
-  Among the fashion forward set – a faction growing in number – Macy’s is shopped most often (16.6%), followed by Kohl’s (11.2%), and JC Penney (8.2%).
-  Walmart’s core shoppers earn under $50,000 – and the discounter leads with these wage earners. However, among both the lucrative $50,000+ and $75,000+ income groups, Kohl’s, Macy’s, and JC Penney are the top stores shopped for Women’s Clothing, respectively.
-  Kohl’s (11.2%) and Macy’s (10.8%) also lead when it comes to 18-34 year old customers. Walmart’s strength lies with consumers 35-54 and 55+, though the discounter still plays second fiddle to Kohl’s in both cases.
-  Kohl’s and Macy’s are the top Women’s Clothing stores shopped in the Northeast, respectively, while their roles are reversed out West. Kohl’s (#1) and Walmart (#2) control the Midwest, and down South, Walmart maintains its stronghold (followed by Kohl’s).
-  While Kohl’s has recently overtaken Walmart for the top spot in Women’s Clothing overall, it appears that Macy’s may enter the mix as 2012 gets underway. From January to April 2012, share of Adults 18+ shopping the department store standard have increase 60%+ to a current 10.0%.
-  Finally, don’t discount JC Penney. Thanks to the retailer’s promotion-less new Fair & Square strategy, shopper interest has perked up in 2012 – in the short term, at least.

Women's Clothing - Store Shopped Most Often (Top 5)

But let’s look a bit deeper at the growing divide between Walmart and Kohl’s 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 Women’s Clothing shows that Kohl’s – and Macy’s – are growing in customer share, while Walmart is flatlining at best. In the all-important female shopper segment, Kohl’s share has risen 14%, Macy’s has boosted a whopping 43%, while Walmart (and JC Penney) have dropped 5%.

Women's Clothing - Consumer Equity Index (Female Shoppers)

And, recall that sweet spot of core customers for Walmart? If you were to analyze the CEI ratings for those earning under $50,000/year, you would find that both Kohl’s and Macy’s are growing in similar fashion as with the female population, while Walmart has seen a flat/meager 2% pick-me-up with this group. #departmentstoredomination?

Now you understand: It doesn’t appear that Kohl’s and Macy’s are directly poaching Walmart shoppers – they are growing their own customer bases (especially females and <$50,000 wage earners), while the big W’s share remains stagnant. Department stores are buzzing with consumers for 2012, and we did witness their increasing popularity for Valentine’s Day, Easter, and Mother’s Day. With this topic trending with shoppers, we could see some additional change-ups in the Women’s Clothing sector as 2012 progresses.

Bottom Line: Perhaps Walmart just isn’t keeping up with The Changing American Consumer.

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

Source: BIGinsight™ Monthly Consumer Survey, APR-11 – APR-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.

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