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Pain at the Pump: Gas Price Impact Update

After learning about how gas price expectations impact behavior, what changes consumers are making as a result, and who they believe is in control, I thought we could take it back to basics this month and dig into where the impact stands today. We know that confidence is up slightly this month but not looking stellar compared to previous years, and the economy continues to play a big role in back-to-school spending plans.  Are pump prices still a pain or are they becoming a slightly more manageable ache? We turn to the Consumer Vital Signs InsightCenter™ to get our answer.

For the third consecutive month, the average gas price* in the U.S. has declined, dropping from $4/gallon in April to $3.42 in July. After hearing about $5/gallon forecasts, $3.42 doesn’t seem so bad. Following suit, the percentage of consumers being impacted by gas prices has declined from 76.3% in April to 71.5% in July, nearly 15 points lower than the 86.0% of Adults 18+ who were being impacted in June of ’08 when the price per gallon was $4.03.

*The average gas price is for the first week of each month to correspond with when the survey is being conducted.

This still means, though, that the majority of consumers are being impacted by fluctuating gas prices and changing their spending habits as a result. After paying $3.25/gallon last week and feeling like I was getting a deal, I quickly came to realize that notion was absurd; $3.25 per gallon is still a lot of money when you remember a day when prices were less than $1/gallon. It seems the majority tends to agree.

While driving less often continues to be the most popular (and logical) habit to conserve fuel, this is down from last year (45.8% in Jul-11 to 41.0% in Jul-12). Reducing dining out, decreasing vacation, spending less on clothing, delaying major purchases, and spending less on groceries are also all down from last year among Adults 18+. Carpooling, however, has seen a very small increase from 7.6% in Jul-11 to 8.3% in Jul-12.

So, is consumers’ pain at the pump excruciating or just a slight annoyance? With the large majority of consumers still being impacted by fluctuating gas prices, it does still seem to cause them a bit of pain. However, Anxiety at the Pump may be a more appropriate name for this ongoing blog. After feeling the pinch of $4/gallon in the midst of the Great Recession, there is always the fear that those prices will become part of the New Normal in the uncertain world we now live in. We may never go back to the days of not being conscious of how much gas we’re using.

To keep updated on fluctuating gas prices and other ways consumers are being impacted, register for the Consumer Vital Signs InsightCenter.

Source: BIGinsight™ Monthly Consumer Survey – JUL-12 (N = 8509, 7/2 – 7/9/12)

© 2012, Prosper®

BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development Corp.

Pain at the Pump: Who (or What) is Controlling Pump Prices?

June 25, 2012 1 comment

In an election year, gas prices are more than just a concern for consumers. They become a hot topic in debates and fodder for those political ads we all love so much. Consumers’ pain at the pump can quickly turn into a reason for voting (or not voting) for a particular candidate.

In our May American Pulse survey, we asked respondents who or what they believe controls gas prices, and the American people were most likely to indicate that most control is held overseas. Nearly half of Adults 18+ believe that leaders in the Middle East are in control, followed by 44.3% who say that good ol’ supply and demand holds the power, while “International Conflicts” come in third. Under one in four say that Congress (24.4%) or the President (23.1%) are responsible for pump prices.

When breaking this down by generation, the youthful are more likely to spread the power out. While supply and demand tops their list, they are the least likely to say this basic economic principle controls gas prices. They are also the least likely to believe leaders in the Middle East are in control, but more likely than older generations to say the President and Congress are holding the reigns.

When we asked these questions in May, consumers had expected gas prices to be $3.95 per gallon by Memorial Day weekend, only to be pleasantly surprised when they were only at $3.67 per gallon (EIA.gov). With gas prices below expectations and continuing to decline (not to mention those $5/gallon summer forecasts we were hearing about heading into the Spring seemingly by the wayside), we decided to ask consumers in our June American Pulse survey who they believed was responsible for the drop in the average price per gallon, using the same list of available answers. In other words, we know who they think controls them, but who do they give credit to when things are going well?

For Adults 18+, supply and demand tops the list of responsible parties when it comes to prices declining, followed by consumers themselves (the “demand” side of that S+D equation).

As they did with the control, Gen Y was most likely to spread out the credit. Older generations were more likely to focus on supply and demand and consumers. 20.9% of Gen Y indicated that the President was responsible, compared to just 12.6% of Gen X, 6.2% of Boomers, and 4.5% of the Silent Generation. Congress followed the same trend with Gen Y being the most likely to indicate they were responsible for the drop in prices.

So, let’s bring this all back to the election. Will gas prices have a direct impact on who consumers vote for in the November?

If consumers are feeling the pinch (or even anticipating it) because of the dollars draining from their wallets when they fill up their tank, it seems the faces of the incumbents in the Oval Office and at the State House will be flashing in their minds along with the dollar signs. Steep gas prices could be an advantage for those looking to steal a seat in Congress or make Pennsylvania Avenue their new address. On the flip side, with consumers not giving a whole lot of credit to politicians currently holding office, a slight drop in gasoline prices alone probably won’t be the tipping point for incumbents to hold onto their seats.  Either way, Gen Y is most likely to equate pump prices with political offices.

Source: American Pulse™ Survey, May & June 2012, Jun-12 N = 3603

© 2012, Prosper®

Mommy Blog: Summertime Fun

Its summertime…sweet summertime!  (Some Kenney Chesney lyrics are playing in my head)  After such a long winter/not really winter…given we saw snow I think one time…summer is welcome with open arms at my house!  My kids are definitely dirt diggin’, sprinkler runnin’, sunscreen wearin’, bug catchin’, creek jumpin’, outside playin’ kind of kids!  My son wants to play outside from sun up till sun down.  As for my almost one year old little girl…she sure knows how to get her cute little outfits dirty!

This time of year is especially hard for me.  I would much rather be at home spending the days outside with my kids.  I’m not alone with 50% of parents answering somewhat/strongly agree with the statement:  I wish I worked less so I would have more time to spend with my children.  74.6% somewhat/strongly agree with the statement:  I wish I had the financial means to give my children more.  My children are young so I feel having more “time” to spend with them is a top priority in my life.  I’m sure one day when my son realizes “monies” do more than fill his piggy bank (that would be his new coca-cola bottle since his baby piggy bank was full) I will have to readdress my thoughts on “time” vs. “money”.

Below is the full list of statements asked in the recent American Pulse™ Survey:

As for the time I do have, I plan to spend it making this summer filled with budget friendly activities for my kids.  I thought I would share some ideas (in addition to our normal family activities above):  water balloon toss, bubbles, sidewalk chalk, kite flying, body painting (then run through the sprinkler!), neighborhood scavenger hunt, obstacle course, oobleck, wet sponge toss, squirt bottle fight and popsicle breaks.  These fun activities should get this Mommy a few brownie points this summer!

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

Source:  American Pulse™ Survey – May 2012 #2 (N=3751, 5/21 – 5/29/12)

© 2012, Prosper®

BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development Corp.

The Price of a Woman’s Face

I was shopping one of my favorite retailers last weekend–Target. Big Red and I have a history. For years, one of my beloved pastimes is to grab a cinnamon dolce latte from Starbucks and just browse aimlessly up and down the aisles until something interesting lands in my cart. This particular weekend the spirit moved me in the cosmetic aisle and I scored six E.L.F. (Eyes, Lips, Face) items for six bucks. That’s less than how much I usually pay for a tube of mascara!

My weekend “score”

High off of my dollar-a-tube spending spree, I was fairly impressed with my purchase. But then I was quickly deflated when I started to add up the other products that currently have a home on my face. For one, I use a department store foundation ($25), which I have been conditioned to believe that I just cannot live without. Same goes for eye shadow (another $25). But my latest “big ticket” cosmetic purchase is an Arbonne makeup primer, which with tax and shipping set me back about fifty bucks.

My guilty pleasure

So even if I replaced my eyeliner, mascara, lip gloss, blush, powder and concealer with E.L.F. products, I put a grand total of $106 on my face each day.

I am a self-admitted make-up junkie, so I spend a bit more on cosmetics than the average Jo(an). According to the BIGinsight™ monthly survey, women spend an average of $16.22 a month on both skin care and cosmetics combined. That equals out to about $195 a year. Women ages 35-44 appear to spend the most, likely due to means or possibly motivation—a wrinkle (gasp!). Women 65+ spend the least.

You could probably guess that my favorite place to purchase cosmetics is Target. And although Walmart is King Queen when it comes to store shopped most often for skin care and cosmetic products for women of all ages, Target is more likely to crop up in the list among younger sets.  Drug stores are also popular choices across the board.

Discounters and drug stores are likely popular choices because they carry what a woman wants – at price points most of us ladies can afford. Cover Girl is ranked as the most popular cosmetic line for all age breaks, followed by Maybelline in most instances (women 65+ seem to rely pretty heavily on their Avon lady). Revlon comes in at #3 for women ages 25-34, 35-44 and 55+.

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

Source: BIGinsight™ Monthly Consumer Survey, Jul-11, N=8684

© 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.

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