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Consumers’ Cure for Stress? Halloween

October 18, 2012 1 comment

What do you get when you combine tenuous consumer confidence, discouraging employment outlook, and an upcoming Presidential election? Economic uncertainty, which generally leads to consumers clamping down harder on their wallets. That’s not quite the case, though, with Halloween.

This year, a record number of consumers (71.5%) plan to spend a record amount of money ($79.82) on the holiday according to insights we collected for the National Retail Federation. As BIGinsight EVP Phil Rist puts it: “There’s some pent-up demand for having some fun this year.”

Aside from fun, though, it seems that a growing number of consumers is viewing Halloween as having, well, a therapeutic benefit. According to the latest insights from our October survey, one in four celebrants (25.6%) agreed that Halloween “somewhat” or “very much” a stress reliever, rising 20% from last year. And, that number grows substantially among the age groups most likely to don a costume or head to a party this year: 18-24 year olds (39.5%) and 25 to 34 year olds (36.8%), both up from a year ago.

Interestingly, while the thought that Halloween relieves stress declines with age (see chart below), the number of 45 to 54 year olds adhering to this sentiment has risen 36% over a year ago – the highest growth in any age group. Perhaps it’s because this group – on the cusp of retirement and/or sending kids to college and/or worrying about property values and/or etc. – might be most in need of a little levity.

Halloween is "Somewhat" or "Very Much" a Stress Reliever

My tip for a low-stress Halloween? Nix the raisins on Beggar’s Night. Passing out some sugar to the neighbor kids sure beats pulling endless amounts of toilet paper out of your trees the next morning.

Source: BIGinsight.com

© 2012, Prosper®

BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development Corp.

New October Insights in a Snap!

October 16, 2012 1 comment

This month’s Consumer Snapshot is ready! The video below is a concise look at a few trending topics for the month of October, designed to give you a BIG picture view of current consumers.

Here’s a brief overview of what we’re seeing from consumers in October 2012:

- Beware the fiscal cliff: confidence declines from September
- Employment outlook improves, but still just 1 in 5 expect “fewer” layoffs over the next 6 months
- Practicality when purchasing remains intact
- Increasing savings reaches highest October reading in 6 years
- Walmart wins in Apparel, Shoes
- Toys R Us, Amazon.com see YOY gains in Children’s Toys
- Holiday ’12 is shaping up to be a bit brighter, with the 90 Day Outlook improving for all categories
- DSLR buying trend? Plans to purchase digital cameras highest in 2 years
- Meet Little Miss “Not” Hot for October: Here Comes Honey Boo Boo

 

And NEW this month is the Consumer Snapshot InsightCenter™. When you register for complimentary access to this new InsightCenter™, you’ll have the ability to segment an advance preview of our all-star insights on consumer confidence, employment, shopping strategies, and future purchase plans by several key demographic groups. You can also download this month’s text summary (which includes additional insights) as well as the PowerPoint analysis through this InsightCenter™.

Interested in becoming a BIG VIP? Please click here to sign up for access to a host of complimentary insights, from our briefings and webinars to press releases and more.

Source: BIGinsight.com

© 2012, Prosper®

BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development Corp.

The Holiday ’12 State of the Consumer

October 11, 2012 Leave a comment

This week, the National Retail Federation announced their 2012 holiday forecast, predicting that sales will rise 4.1% over 2011 to $586.1 billion. The sales growth is expected to be slightly higher than the 10-year average holiday sales increase (3.5%), though pacing below last year’s growth (5.6%). With holiday shoppers gearing up for spending, let’s take a look at the “state of the consumer” as we head into this all-important selling season for retailers:

Confidence is UP, but Feelings are Volatile. In the BIGinsight September monthly survey of more than 9,000 consumers, 38% indicated that they were very confident or confident in chances for a strong economy. This was a high reading for 2012 and a vast improvement over the September 2011’s 23%, when consumers were still reeling from the debt crisis. Confidence is riding a four-point upswing from August to September, but don’t look for this indicator to continue to improve at this pace – 2012 has been a rollercoaster ride for sentiment and continued fluctuation is expected headed into Q4.

Consumer Confidence

The outcome of the “fiscal cliff” drama on Capitol Hill remains big question mark for the sustainability of confidence – as well as holiday sales. Should we fall off that precipice – and realize an average 2013 tax bill increase of $3500 – holiday budgets are bound to shrink. Adding to the precarious position of the economy? Our continuously weak job market. And the upcoming Presidential election also adds to the uncertainty.

Frugality is a Fixture in Consumer Finances. Along with the relatively robust increase in consumer confidence in September, we also witnessed similar increases in those focused on practical purchasing and buying just the necessities. In fact, both indicators are in line with what we saw a year ago, when confidence was just 23%. So yes, Virginia, despite the more positive outlook for the economy, consumers are still being very cautious with what they spend – even as we look forward to the holiday shopping season.

Expect holiday shoppers to stick to budgets, avoid impulse buys, continue smart shopping strategies, such as couponing, sales/promotions, and comparison shopping, as gift-buying commences. Frugality continues to be the name of the game with consumers because they know the economy isn’t “fixed.” Paying down debt and reducing spending remain fiscal priorities headed into the final three months of 2012, while plans to increase savings reached a six-year September high last month, so it appears that consumers may be preparing for holiday shopping as well as those everyday unknowns.

Pricing uncertainty in key areas, like grocery, gas, and apparel, continues to be of concern with consumers. An increasing number of shoppers are relying on their credit cards more compared to September 2011 when purchasing such staples – so we are still seeing signs of struggling consumers. (i.e. Holiday ’12 won’t herald a season of “recovery.”)

However, if it can be avoided, shoppers won’t make this Christmas on credit. Year over year, fewer are paying off just the minimum monthly balance on their cards, while we’ve seen a slight rise in those carrying $0 average monthly balances. The past four years have been a tough road for consumers, but they do appear to be focusing on not falling back into the lax spending/savings patterns that got them into a mess back in 2008.

Consumers Know They Have the Upper Hand with Retailers. Can we call this retail transparency? The rising popularity of mobile devices has taken much of the mystery out of shopping for customers holding a smartphone or tablet. They can compare prices, check availability, and even click “buy” from virtually wherever they are located, and shoppers will work all angles – online, instore, mobile, social media, coupon sites, direct mail, email, and ad circulars – to make sure that their holiday spending remains on budget. It’ll be a spending game that consumers want to win.

However, we know that all retailers can’t compete on low price alone [I’m looking at you, Best Buy.] Great customer service and personal rapport with shoppers will be key in driving traffic to retailers who aren’t low-price providers. Product selection, availability, and brand assortment – something department stores having really honed in on in the past few years – will also serve to turn shoppers’ heads this season. “Cheap is chic” is SO 2008; today’s shoppers want value and are willing to pay a little more for quality – as long as they can use a coupon.

This post originally appeared on Forbes.com as a contribution to the Prosper Now blog.

Can an iPhone 5 Save JC Penney?

It seems that Apple has the Midas Touch, and when JC Penney brought former SVP Ron Johnson on board in late 2011, it was heralded by many as a genius decision. Long relegated to the back of consumers’ minds [along with Sears], it appeared that this department store dinosaur was finally making a conscious effort to reinvigorate its stodgy image and arming itself to compete with its more present day foes: Macy’s, Kohl’s, and TJ Maxx.

With the advent of m-commerce, social media, and increasing connectivity, it seemed that this marriage between an Apple exec and JC Penney was a solid union – at least enough to advance the department store into 21st century retailing. However, as 2012 has progressed, it has become clear that the new “Fair & Square” JC Penney has gotten off to a very rocky start.

While JC Penney certainly has taken some steps in the right direction – focusing on exclusive brand names from the likes of Nicole Miller, Liz Claiborne, Mango, and even the Olsen twins takes a page from Kohl’s and Macy’s successful playbooks. Today’s consumers demand quality products at great prices, and they want to feel good about their purchases when walking out of the store. Here’s where JC Penney missteps: they have eliminated the excitement from the shoppers’ buying process. Having an extra 10-20% off coupon or buying an item on sale – which Kohl’s and Macy’s offer in abundance – gives the shopper the feeling that they’ve one-upped the retailer, i.e. the customer wins.

This shopping euphoria is essential when marketing apparel in an uncertain economy. Consumers already had closets full of clothes, and when it came time to really trim budgets during the “Great Recession,” apparel was one of the easiest budget cuts to stomach. It’s interesting that even during a downturn in the economy, electronics sold – maybe with a little less frequency and at somewhat lower price points, but the latest HDTVs, tablets, notebooks, smartphones, and all things iOS were, and continue to be, hot selling items. Budget-conscious consumers could justify the purchase of a new TV or computer; these were items that the whole family could enjoy, helped us multitask, and in some cases, assist with homework. In other words, electronics were fun, practical, and educational. Consumers literally couldn’t buy into this same reasoning when it came to apparel or home goods, categories that JC Penney so desperately needed to move on the selling floor.

When Johnson joined JC Penney last year, it appeared that the Apple “ego” followed him as well. Apple is an innovative brand with a heady following, and its retail outlets, which Johnson cultivated, served to build on this loyalty and brought out the curiosity in others – they were what shoppers demanded and gravitated toward.

JC Penney lacks the Apple cachet, and its “Fair & Square” overhaul – ditching coupons and weekly promotions in the process – failed to make a compelling argument as to why shoppers needed to check out their revamped stores. Sure low prices are great, but the new normal directs shoppers to seek out that extra incentive when it comes to buying non-essentials like apparel and home décor. The “new” JC Penney already has proof of this – just look at its successful free haircut promotion for Back-to-School; the operative word here, of course, is free.

A glance at what motivates shoppers to make apparel purchases shows us the continued importance of instore promotions and coupons in this category. According to BIGinsight’s semi-annual Media Behaviors and Influence™ survey of 25,000 consumers, apparel sales and promotions are the #1 driver for shoppers of many of the top U.S. retailers, including JC Penney, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Gap, H&M, and Nordstrom – yes, even promotions are key with luxury shoppers. And, in instances where instore promotions aren’t the top motivation for apparel purchases, they are still likely top of mind. At TJ Maxx, for example, while 42.3% rely on word of mouth, nearly as many (40.4%) value a good sale.

While word of mouth is the #2 influencer for apparel purchases among JC Penney shoppers (at 36.3%), coupons are almost as important (35.5%). JC Penney customers’ attraction to apparel coupons is stronger than that of the general population (30.7%) as well. Coupons don’t carry nearly as much clout over in Apple’s wheelhouse – electronics – so it’s plain to see why Johnson was so quick to axe those money-savers at JC Penney.

So can an iPhone save JC Penney? Can a marketing approach borne from Apple revive a struggling department store? Can pigs fly? Clearly not. What works for Apple – what used to work for Ron Johnson – simply has no place in JC Penney’s strategy. Today’s apparel shoppers have honed their bargain-hunting skills and crave a good deal on their terms. Instead of trying to force “Fair & Square” on the buying public – much like the launch of a great, new, innovative product à la Apple – JC Penney really should have first become more attuned its target customers.

This post originally appeared on Forbes.com as a contribution to the Prosper Now blog.

Mobile Users Speak: Mobile Aptitude on the Rise

It looks as though mobile devices are here to stay; purchase intentions have been on the rise since 2011, even as the cost of living increases. The latest iPhone installment and newest Droid tablet appear to be on the “Do Not Cut Back” list for most consumers:

More and more consumers are acquiring the means to be mobile.

Naturally, those who have smartphones and tablets are using them for a variety of purposes. Some may even be considering replacing their laptop! Although a desktop or laptop computer is the preferred method for Internet access, this portion has been declining since April 2012. Earlier this year, 2 in 3 (67.1%) preferred using a computer to access the Internet, compared to just over half (56.7%) as of August. Mobile Users who prefer using a smartphone for web surfing have increased in numbers from April (22.3% to 29.0%) along with those who opt for tablet devices (10.7% to 14.3%).

Further, those mobile users with smartphones are going beyond the basics of their gadgets—they not only have means, but also the motivation to use their devices to the fullest. As of September, only 11.7% say they use their smartphone just for call/text/email. The rest of users are split: 46.0% use the basic features plus some applications while 42.2% say their smartphone is their life! These avid users remain in the majority while the proportion of phone fundamentalists is trending downward:

Would you like to discover your own mobile insights? All of these and more can be found at the Prosper Mobile InsightCenter™. Check it out soon! For the entire month of October, Prosper Mobile Insights is offering an All Access Pass to behind-the-scenes segments including wireless providers, retailer shoppers and extended demographic segments.


Source: Prosper Mobile Insights™

© 2012, Prosper®

Embracing Escapism: 70% Plan to Celebrate Halloween This Year

With the U.S. economy on unsteady ground for the past several years, have consumers just given up on a full recovery? We talk about terms like the “new normal” and wonder if the uncertain economy is just now a part of life. But consumers can’t live their lives mired in the doldrums; we seem to be gravitating toward outlets that give us freedom to laugh, enjoy life, and let us forget the everyday “norm.” It’s called escapism. For some, it’s following all things Kardashian, striking up a dialogue on the latest Here Comes Honey Boo Boo exploits, or waiting in line for the new Apple iPhone 5. For many of us – 7 in 10 to be exact – it’ll mean celebrating Halloween this year.

For the past ten years, BIGinsight has been a proud provider of Halloween insights for the National Retail Federation, and this year, we found that 170 million adults will be partaking in the festivities, a new record. Whether it’s attending a party, passing out candy, or even getting Fido in on the act, consumers seem bound and determined to release that pent-up demand for having some fun despite everyday uncertainties. And of the $8 billion dollars consumers are expected to spend on the holiday, nearly $3 billion will be scared up for costumes – and some of this year’s favorites are shown below in the NRF’s Halloween 2012 infographic.

Top Halloween costumes for adults, kids and pets in 2012 – Infographic

Hot Trends for September: Election, NFL, Fall Fashion

September 28, 2012 1 comment

The “Hot or Not?” segment in our September survey was full of current events, personalities, and [my favorite] fall fashion trends. But what trumped the royal family, fantasy football, and peplum tops?

The 2012 Presidential Election.

I guess, though, it would be a little disturbing if the 9,000+ consumers who completed this month’s survey were more excited about the next generation Wii U than the race to the White House. #priorities

Fall’s arrival also has consumers gearing up for the 2012 NFL season as well as fantasy football leagues. And, despite its recent political controversy, Chick-fil-A is still a winner with fast foodies:

In other news, it appears that Prince Harry’s recent antics in Las Vegas only served to endear him further with Americans at large. The royal, now serving in Afghanistan, bested big bro Prince William in our poll this month. Lance Armstrong – with his own “Did he? / Didn’t he?” doping drama – found himself in an unfamiliar position toward the end of the pack this month.

With half the population – i.e. men – finding little to get excited about here, fashion trends typically find themselves in “ice cold” territory. However, it does look like ladies’ best bets for fall are entrenched in the more preppy territory with hunter green and blazers topping vegan leather and peplum tops.

I’m grateful, though, that women under 35 are more psyched about the faux leather movement: while my husband recently gave my leather-like coated denim a big thumbs down [the term “80s groupie” was used], this is a trend I’m planning to stick with…anything to keep you young, right?

For more on what we found “Hot or Not?” for the month of September, plus other consumer highlights, check out this month’s video briefing:

Source: BIGinsight.com

© 2012, Prosper®

BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development Corp.

The Not-So-Jolly Holiday Outlook for JC Penney Shoppers

September 25, 2012 Leave a comment

2012 hasn’t been kind to JC Penney. And, it doesn’t appear that Q4 will get any better for the department store, which has struggled to shake up its stodgy image this year and in the process has rattled its core customer base. According to the Prosper Spending Index, JC Penney shoppers’ outlook for holiday gift spending falls below that of the general population, with an index of 95.9 (baseline index = 100).* Among JC Penney shoppers with holiday spending plans in mind, two in five (44.2%) plan to spend less on holiday gifts this year than they did for 2011, while fewer than one in ten (7.4%) plan to spend more.

As could be expected, the holiday spending outlook is similar among those shopping Walmart (index = 94.4). Still, a slightly larger proportion of shoppers at the discounter, known to cater to more cash-strapped, lower income households, plans to spend more for the upcoming holiday season (9.5%) compared to JC Penney shoppers (7.4%).

Among the customers analyzed, shoppers at Macy’s, a retailer which has arguably benefited from JC Penney’s EDLP strategy switch-up, maintain the most positive outlook on holiday gift spending, with a Prosper Spending Index of 110.9. TJ Maxx loyalists also hold a brighter-than-average outlook (index = 106.3). Target (102.4) and Kohl’s (101.0) shoppers’ holiday spending plans are in line with the overall average.

So we know JC Penney shoppers will be trying to cut back on their holiday gift spending this year, but just how do they intend to accomplish this?

Memo to Ron Johnson: Your shoppers (or what’s left of them) are still motivated to buy based on sales and coupons.

Among JC Penney customers, nearly half say they are shopping for sales more often (45.4%) and/or are clipping coupons (42.1%) in efforts to help balance their budgets – higher than the overall average. Among the retailers mentioned, Kohl’s shoppers – rabid for that Kohl’s Cash – are the only ones eclipsing both of these figures.

With economic uncertainty pervading consumer mindsets, today’s shoppers – JC Penney’s included – continue to possess an innate need to feel good about spending their hard earned dollars, particularly when it comes to spending on those not-so-essentials like gifts and apparel. And in shoppers’ “feel-good” toolkit are coupons, weekly promos, and special sales. These items are, of course, generally absent from JC Penney’s promotional strategy – setting the department store up for additional customer loss during the critical holiday season.

Think about it like this: getting a $60 sweater on sale for $30 is something to write home tweet about. Simply buying a sweater for the $30 ticket price? It’s a little ho-ho-hum.

* Holiday outlook insights are based on celebrants who have holiday spending plans in mind.

This post originally appeared on Forbes.com as a contribution to the Prosper Now blog.

New September Insights in a Snap!

September 18, 2012 1 comment

This month, we’ve introduced the Consumer Snapshot – a concise look at a few trending topics for the month of September, designed to give you a BIG picture view of current consumers.

In this month’s video analysis, we’re examining consumer confidence, practical spending and personal finances, and the pain at the pump. And, we wrap things up with a peek at Holiday 2012 spending plans.

This month’s video is below, but you can also click over to our full version for a short text summary as well as the link to this month’s complimentary PowerPoint analysis.

 

Interested in becoming a BIG VIP? Please click here to sign up for access to a host of complimentary insights, from our briefings and webinars to press releases and more.

To view the latest BIG Consumer Snapshot in its entirely: September 2012.

Source: BIGinsight.com

© 2012, Prosper®

BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development Corp

Who wants an iPhone 5?

September 11, 2012 Leave a comment

On the eve of what *may* finally be Apple’s iPhone 5 announcement, we thought we’d check in with our consumers to see how they are handling their possible-new-smartphone-related anxiety.

In our August survey of more than 9,000 consumers, we put the iPhone 5 rumors to the test in our monthly “Hot or Not?” feature. As it turns out, more deemed it “not” (66.1%) than “hot” (33.9%) – placing Apple’s would-be new offering at the low end of our heat spectrum this month, just ahead of current tabloid target Kristen Stewart. [cue Debbie Downer]

Hot or Not? Apple iPhone 5 RumorsRecall the iPhone 5 rumblings a year ago? Consumers were much more likely to hotly anticipate the Apple’s latest iPhone iteration back in August 2011, with the majority (50.7%) feeling the heat – from 2011 to 2012, that’s a 33% drop in hotness! With the iPhone 4S not quite living up to our update expectations last year, it appears that consumers are bracing themselves for a less-than-astounding announcement on September 12. #poorSiri

But don’t cry for Apple…it looks like the iPhone 5 [or whatever is soon announced] will have many a shopper clamoring for the new device – particularly among the younger set. Nearly three out of five 18-24 year olds (56.0%) are declaring the 2012 rumors to be “hot,” while those 25-34 index above average as well (45.7%). Expectedly, the temperature on the iPhone 5 buzz gets increasingly chillier as age rises:

Hot or Not? Apple iPhone 5 Rumors (by Age)

With my contract expiring at the end of the year, here’s hoping that Apple’s developed something of grand proportions. You know, it’d be great if Siri could take on my vacuuming. #iwantanappforthat

This post is also trending over on the Prosper Now blog on Forbes.com.

Source: BIGinsight™ Monthly Consumer Survey, AUG-11, AUG-12

© 2012, Prosper®

BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development Corp.

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