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Back-to-School Overview + New Consumer Trends for July

July 26, 2012 1 comment

Our very special guest contributor this month on the BIG Call was Ellen Davis, Senior Vice President at the National Retail Federation and Executive Director for the NRF Foundation.

July is an exciting month for the NRF and BIGinsight, as this is the time of year we collect and release a fresh batch of insights on the Back-to-School shopping season. 2012 marks the tenth season of our partnership on Back-to-School insights – a milestone!

In her portion of the Call, Ellen delivered an interesting view of what we can expect from Back-to-School shoppers this year and what this means to retailers. Specifically, she addressed:

– The Economy: Where We’ve Been, Where We’re Going
– Back to School, Back to College 2012
– Economy Remains Top of Mind
– What’s Different This Year
– Retailers’ Recipe for Success
– Holiday Implications

And to kick off the Call, I gave a snapshot of consumers overall, including economic sentiment, employment outlook, practical purchasing, our 90 Day Outlook as well as a special preview of Holiday 2012 spending plans.

To listen to the recorded webinar, click here.

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

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

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: Running on Empty

I have always heard that you shouldn’t let your gas tank run too low on a regular basis because it’s bad for your car (mostly from my dad). In my 10+ years of driving experience, I have let my gas light come on one time and it was in the last month (yes, dad, I listen to you sometimes). When gas is nearing $4/gallon, I’m just less inclined to pull into a station and fill up. I’d rather figure out how many miles I can drive before it is necessary. I’m also one to gamble – filling up when I see prices drop betting that they won’t be any lower when I really need gas.

In this month’s American Pulse survey, we asked consumers what changes they are making regarding their fill-up habits as a result of fluctuating gas prices. More than one-third are filling up less often by letting their tank run close to Empty, just under three in ten are filling up as soon as they see prices drop, and just under one quarter are filling up more often so that the cost isn’t as high each time they go to the pump. When breaking this down by generation, Gen Y-ers are more likely to make changes in general, while this youthful bunch and Gen X are likely the people you will see stranded on the side of the road because they let their tanks get a little too close to empty.

If they don’t run out of gas before they get there, consumers are making many different changes when shopping for groceries. Using coupons more often and purchasing only needed products are at the top of the list for Adults 18+. Boomers are the most likely generation to coupon, stay away from impulse purchases, and buy more store brand and generic. Gen Y and Gen X are the most likely to switch to a different brand because they are cheaper or on sale (hint to CPGers: here’s your chance to steal some share). Gen Y shoppers are much less likely to make a list and stick to it, providing room for some in-store promotion to influence their purchases.

When it comes to clothing, shoes, and accessories, two in five Adults 18+ are only buying sale items because of gas prices. Gen X-ers are least likely to peruse the sale racks while Gen Y-ers are the most likely group to be shopping at discount stores more often and, not surprisingly, shopping at malls less often. More than three in ten Boomers are making clothing, shoes, and accessories a smaller part of their budget.

While gas prices have been flirting with the $4/gallon average, I have yet to see the amount of walkers and stranded cars that were abundant when we first saw that mark in the summer of ’08. I keep thinking of the scene from Forrest Gump where he runs across the country with Jackson Browne’s “Running on Empty” playing in the background. It might not be a bad idea for all of us find some good running shoes (on sale, of course) and hit the pavement.

Source: American Pulse™ Survey, APR-12 #1, N = 3738

© 2012, Prosper®

BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development.

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.

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.


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.

Yep, There’s an App for That Too

February 22, 2012 Leave a comment

Smartphones are big, and tablets are even bigger, primarily due to the countless number of handy dandy apps available for download. From games, planning dinner, tracking the calories in that dinner, to connecting with friends, or even learning How to Drink Your Coffee, there’s bound to be an app for that.

But what apps do consumers really care about when it comes down to it? What about consumers in China, where the mobile market is soaring? Developers take note…it’s all about games and entertainment. For the purposes of this analysis we looked at the types of apps mobile-savvy American and Chinese Consumers ages 18-54 use most often. Despite cultural differences, games, entertainment, and social networking apps are most popular:

With gaming and general entertainment the top two types of apps in both countries, it’s clear that those little Angry Birds have global appeal. Social networking apps are also popular in both countries, with approximately 6 in 10 Chinese and American consumers connecting with friends and family via their mobile devices.

The cultural divide is apparent though once we look past gaming, entertainment, and social media. American consumers are far more likely to download apps related to weather (54.4%), radio (41.7%), and sports (31.0%) than their Chinese counterparts.  Mobile-savvy Chinese Consumers, on the other hand, are much more likely to use work-related apps focused on finance (49.4%), news (52.8%), and general business (51.2%).

Like Apps? We’ve got ‘em too. Visit

For more information on this data contact BIGinsight™ or ProsperChina™

Sources: BIGinsight™ Media Behaviors & Influence™ Study – DEC-11 (N=24,578); ProsperChina™ Quarterly Survey – Q4 2011 (N, 16,175)

© 2012, Prosper®

BIGinsight™ ProsperChina™ and Media Behaviors & Influence™ are trademarks of Prosper Business Development Corp.

The Changing American Consumer

February 17, 2012 1 comment

Over the past year, I’ve had the pleasure of working with Dr. Marianne Bickle, from the University of South Carolina, on her latest book, The Changing American Consumer. She analyzed ten years’ worth of insights gathered from over a million consumer interviews from BIGinsight™ to paint a picture of how the American consumer is continuously changing.

Consumers have been evolving since the 1960’s, but recent events such as terrorism, financial crises and natural disasters have burned them. A new consumer has emerged from the “fire” with a new identity and a new focus. It’s no longer about the “McMansion” or a Hummer. Consumers are more practical, more budget-conscious and more in control of the marketplace.

In her book, Dr. Bickle not only details these changes, but translates it into relevant information that retailers can use. Topics include consumers’ financial wellbeing, building the American castle, their love affair with automobiles, fast food habits, and how they communicate, to name a few.

We are really excited about this book because Marianne provides an insightful and entertaining look at the American consumer. Her analysis will certainly help companies as they refocus their strategies in an ever-changing market.

Click here for more information:

Customers’ Choice – A Look Back

November 1, 2011 Leave a comment

Sorry…we aren’t about to reveal the 2011 Customers’ Choice Winners, but we have been hard at work on this year’s list in recent weeks.  So I thought that now would be a great time to take a look back at previous winners.

For the past several years, we’ve been pleased to provide the research behind the Customers’ Choice Awards to the NRF Foundation…research which (of course) comes straight from the thoughts of more than 9,000 consumers in our Consumer Intentions & Actions® survey. took home top honors in 2011, moving up from #3 in previous years. Perennial favorites for customer service include, L.L.Bean, and

Below are the NRF Foundation/American Express Customers’ Choice Award Winners for the past two years:


  3. L.L.Bean
  5. Lands’ End
  6. JC Penney
  7. Kohl’s
  8. QVC
  9. Nordstrom
  10. Newegg


  1. L.L.Bean
  5. QVC
  6. Coldwater Creek
  7. HSN
  8. Lands’ End
  9. JCPenney
  10. (tie) Kohl’s, Nordstrom

To read more about the 2010 results as well as methodology, click here.

Stay tuned for the 2011 results, which will be announced at the NRF 101st Annual Convention & EXPO.

©2011, Prosper®

ProsperChina™: Upper Income Chinese Consumers Becoming More Practical; Big Ticket Purchase Intentions Down Year Over Year

Interest in Fashionable Clothing Not Affected by Increased Practicality

WORTHINGTON, OH – 61.5% of Chinese consumers 18-54 with annual incomes over 100,000 RMB have become more practical with their purchases in the past six months, according to the ProsperChina™ Q4 Survey of 19,402 respondents. This reading is up from 58.5% in Q4 2009. Being practical and budget conscious are becoming more prominent among Chinese consumers with higher incomes. Likely because those earning lower incomes are already practical, fewer of those with incomes less than 100,000 RMB indicate they have become more practical or budget conscious:

In the last six months, have you made any of the following changes?

Adults 18-54 – Q4 2009 / Q4 2010
I have become more practical and realistic in my purchases: 60.7% / 59.2%
I have become more budget conscious: 35.8% / 34.5%

Household Income 60K-99K RMB – Q4 2009 / Q4 2010
I have become more practical and realistic in my purchases: 60.9% / 59.2%
I have become more budget conscious: 39.8% / 37.6%

Household Income 100K+ RMB – Q4 2009 / Q4 2010
I have become more practical and realistic in my purchases: 58.5% / 61.5%
I have become more budget conscious: 35.5% / 40.3%

Source: ProsperChina™ Q4 Survey, 2009/2010

The uptick in being more practical may reflect a loss of confidence in the economy among the high earners. 59.5% of those with incomes 100,000 RMB or higher are confident or very confident in chances for a strong economy over the next six months, down from 66.3% in Q4 2009. In addition, plans to buy big ticket items, such as computers, houses and vacation travel, are down from one year ago.

Purchase plans for vehicles are also down among upper income Chinese. 34.1% of those earning 100,000+ RMB plan to purchase a vehicle in the next six months, along with 25.7% of those with incomes 60,000-99,999 RMB (compared to 39.5% and 34.3%, respectively, in Q4 2009). However, the number of wealthy Chinese who own vehicles is up approximately 7% from last year for both higher income segments.

For a complimentary SlideShare report including big ticket item purchase intentions and top vehicle makes in China: Special Report: Upper Income Chinese Consumers

The move towards being more practical does not impact clothing purchases for Chinese consumers with incomes over 100,000 RMB. More of these consumers in 2010 indicate that familiar labels are important to them and that sales are not important when buying clothing:

Adults 18-54 – Q4 2009 / Q4 2010
Familiar labels are important to me: 68.3% / 67.3%
Sales are not important to me when I buy clothing: 36.8% / 35.7%

Household Income 60K-99K RMB – Q4 2009 / Q4 2010
Familiar labels are important to me: 73.0% / 72.9%
Sales are not important to me when I buy clothing: 37.2% / 36.5%

Household Income 100K+ RMB – Q4 2009 / Q4 2010
Familiar labels are important to me: 78.5% / 79.7%
Sales are not important to me when I buy clothing: 43.0% / 46.6%

Source: ProsperChina™ Q4 Survey, 2009/2010
Q: “When buying clothes, familiar labels are important to me.” A: Yes/No
“Which of the following best describes your shopping strategy for clothing?”

For a complimentary report including feelings towards fashion: Special Report: Upper Income Chinese Consumers

About is a niche portal for the China marketplace, providing access to marketing information and consumer insights on China’s growing market from diverse sources. Also available are unique insights from quarterly Chinese surveys providing updates on shopping behavior and future purchase intentions of Chinese consumers. Visit
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Randi Honkonen
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Categories: Uncategorized
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