Tomorrow is the big day. The presidential election of 2012 has come in like a lion with vicious attacks from both camps. If you’re anything like me, you’re sick of the negative campaign ads, the constant phone calls and the rhetoric. But tomorrow night it will all be over. Hopefully. I’m crossing my fingers this one doesn’t end up at the Supreme Court, but this is going to be a close one folks.
The latest American Pulse™ report is tracking Romney (46.1%) and Obama (45.9%) to be running neck and neck among likely voters. (Although if you are into old wives tales, the Washington Redskins loss this past weekend pretty much seals the deal for Romney.) However, the findings from the report could provide some foreshadowing into who will be sworn in come January.
According to the report, it’s all about the economy. Sure people are worried about Iran, Afghanistan, and other issues abroad. But at the end of the day it comes down to what’s going on at home—and who’s best equipped to get the economy headed in the right direction. Here’s a few things we found to be particularly interesting.
- 71.4% rate the economy as poor/terrible; 52% say it’s heading in the wrong direction.
- 76.2% say economy will have the most impact on their vote; 37.2% say President Obama’s performance regarding the economy has been “terrible.”
- 53.9% know someone receiving unemployment benefits; 55.1% know someone receiving food stamps.
Additionally 4 in 5 Americans believe their vote matters. Three-fourths say nothing will stop them from voting this year and roughly 70% say they are excited to vote.
Should make for an exciting day.
Check out the report:
For further insight, take a listen as our Consumer Insights Director, Pam Goodfellow, discusses the analysis on one of our favorite local morning radio programs: http://ow.ly/f2rkX
You’ve heard the phrase “new normal” on the news, during conversation, in reference to the economy, etc…but what does it mean for most Americans? What has truly become part of normal everyday living in post-recession USA?
Most Americans agree that fluctuating gas prices (71.5%), the rising cost of food (63.5%) and high national debt (60.4%) are now normal parts of living in America that we just have to deal with. The slow-growing economy (53.1%) and the hassle of frequently shopping for sales (50.4%) also top the list.
Although fluctuating gas prices top the list of “normal” conditions for all age groups, members of the Silent Generation (83.9%) are more likely than those in Generation Y (57.5%) to say frequent pain at the pump is part of the “new normal.” Youngsters in the U.S. probably don’t remember when gas cost less than a dollar per gallon while those in the Silent Generation might be reminiscing of the good ol’ days when you could buy a gallon or two with the spare change in your pocket.
The generations also differ when it comes to modesty: not surprisingly, fewer members of younger generations notice a difference in the generally accepted code of conduct, while those in older generations are more likely to see a lack of modesty as a recent development in American living.
While the disappointment of deferring purchases is lower on the list of “new normal” situations to cope with, the Boomer Generation is most likely to feel the sting here. 39.6% of Boomers consider pushing off the purchase of a flat screen, vacation home or new car as just another part of living in the U.S. of A. For comparison, only 26.8% of Gen Yers agree.
For more on the “new normal,” head over to the Prosper Now Blog at Forbes.com.
Source: American Pulse™ Survey, October 2012 #1, N= 3529
© 2012, Prosper®
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.
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.
Do you trust your bank? Or do you stash your cash inside the mattress? We asked Americans how they felt about their personal bank and the federal banking system. Nearly 3 in 4 (73.8%) said they can count on their local bank while fewer (39.4%) put stock in the U.S. banking system as a whole. Interestingly, trust levels vary by generation:
It seems as though older Americans have more trust in their local bank while youngsters are more trusting of the United States banking system as a whole, compared to other generations.
Gen Yers are also more optimistic that recently announced lower interest rates will help the economy. 31.1% of these young adults are more or much more confident in the housing market as a result of the Fed’s interest rate adjustment. 25.3% say the same about the economy overall along with 23.1% who show a boost of confidence in the job market. Members of Gen X, just one generation older, are less likely to be confident in all three areas:
Perhaps Gen Y is more confident because this age segment is the most likely to take advantage of lower interest rates. 61.2% of members of Gen Y plan to make some type of life change as a result of the Fed’s announcement: 22.4% say they are likely to buy a car, 20.9% are in the market for a home and 20.5% plan to go [back] to school. Most members of older generations do not plan to make any life changes at this time.
For more fresh insights on American consumers, including confidence in the economy, expectations for gas prices and even Election 2012 updates, be sure to check out the complimentary American Pulse™ InsightCenter!
Source: American Pulse™ Survey, September 2012 #2, N=3282
© 2012, Prosper®
That’s right…in just 5 minutes, we’ll educate you on what you need to know about confidence, consumer spending, unemployment, and retail. Simply click play below to view our latest insights from our Monthly Consumer Survey:
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For more information on this data, please contact BIGinsight™.
Source: BIGinsight™ Monthly Consumer Survey – AUG-12 (N = 9426, 8/1 – 8/7/12)
© 2012, Prosper®
BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development Corp.
As some of you may know, we’ve been releasing these really handy tools called InsightCenters, perfect for serving up answers in an intuitive, interactive and illustrative way. You can find insights on a wide range of topics – mobile device ownership, Hispanic consumers, new vehicle purchasers, government unemployment stats, and even the economy of China—all at the click of a mouse or the tap of a touch screen!
At the moment I have a domestic focus, and have been exploring our American Pulse InsightCenter, which takes a look at how Americans feel about the upcoming election, the economy, technology, and much more!
In just a few minutes, I was able to easily gather these fun facts:
- Members of Generation Y are more likely than older generations to say they are addicted to the Internet and Facebook.
- More Boomers than younger Americans say they are addicted to TV.
- Men are more likely than women to be happier with the work life, and both genders’ happiness levels in the workplace are higher in 2012 than they were in 2011.
- Women, however, are more likely than men to be happy or totally happy with their love lives.
- In July, Hispanics were more likely than Whites and Blacks to thoroughly enjoy their lives rather than worrying about making money.
- Members of Generation Y are more confident that the government’s economic policies will help lower unemployment, and their confidence is growing.
- Neither Presidential candidate has a positive Net Promoter Score* among Likely Voters.
- Obama, however, receives a higher score among Democrats than Romney does among Republicans.
Take a look for yourself and see what you can learn about the pulse of America: the people! And for the people, did I mention access to this InsightCenter is totally free? 🙂 (Just click the image to access the online version or download to your Android tablet!)
© 2012, Prosper®
*About the Net Promoter Score (NPS): Respondents were asked to rate, on a scale from 0 (Not at all likely) to 10 (Extremely likely), the probability they would recommend each presidential candidate to a friend or colleague. 10 and 9 responses indicate Promoters, 8 and 7 responses are Passives and 0 through 6 are Detractors. NPS is calculated by subtracting the percentage of Detractors from the percentage of Promoters.
Net Promoter, NPS and Net Promoter Score are trademarks of Satmetrix Systems, Inc., Bain & Company, and Fred Reichheld
As Consumer Insights Director, I have been working with the vast amount of insights we gather for an entire decade. And, it’s been interesting to see how consumers have evolved over this time span: from their embrace of online shopping (seen in full effect for Back-to-School this year) to the “spend now, worry later” mantra voiced by many before the burst of the housing bubble burst and subsequent meltdown on Wall Street. Even post-recession, consumers are adapting to the times, couponing at every corner, working within budgets, fattening up their piggy banks, and becoming attached at the hip to their favorite social media sites. And who really thought that – even as little as just a few years ago – that the term “mobile exclusivity” would enter our vocabulary?
Most certainly, a lot has changed in ten years.
While the advent of m-commerce might be a close second, I would argue that the clear turning post for consumer behavior during the last decade came with the “Great Recession.” Shoppers went from “spend now, worry later” to an “abort spending, worry, worry, worry” mindset. Holiday 2008 was an absolute disaster for most retailers, and, to this day, they are still trying to coax shoppers back in their stores. According to some of our latest insights, consumer confidence continues to trend below an ideal range, employment – or rather, unemployment – remains a chief concern, while decreasing overall spending is a financial priority to an increasing number of consumers.
Think about that last statement for a bit. The lagging consumer confidence, weak outlook for employment, and spending cutbacks we’re seeing currently applied to the 2009 consumer…and the 2010 consumer…even those in 2011. This persistent drought of positive economic news over the past several years has changed consumers’ approach to spending. Are frugal consumers the “new normal”?
If the economy continues at this lackluster pace, you betcha.
This month, we asked 8,500 U.S. consumers if they thought the economy would ever rebound to what it was before the economic crisis, and the results were fairly well divided: just over a third were hopeful for a rebound, while nearly as many either aren’t on the rebound bandwagon or are simply unsure.
Why is it important to get shoppers’ perspective on the matter? Doubt in the economy brews uncertainty and hesitation toward consumer spending. With two-thirds of Americans feeling pessimistic or indecisive about an economic rebound, we’re likely to continue to see heavy coupon usage, a strong focus on budgets, further attempts at debt reduction, targeted spending, price comparisons – smart shopping strategies executed by well-informed consumers (who have been made all the more knowledgeable by the recent rise of mobile devices).
Translation: if consumers are going to spend their hard earned money, they are going to make every dollar count.
It’s also important to note that with the economy flatlining over the past four years, optimism for a rebound has been waning among consumers. Back in July 2009, more than two in five were confident that the economy would bounce back to its pre-recession glory; the current figure represents a 20%+ drop from this point in time. On the upside, though, with the debt ceiling crisis looming back in July 2011, consumers harbored their worst feelings toward a rebound, so at least we’ve made some improvement versus a year ago:
So what’s a retailer to do? It’s all about the CONSUMER. Knowing who your shoppers are, what they are planning or willing to buy, and adjusting your merchandising mix, marketing strategy, and inventory levels accordingly will likely help you weather this economic maelstrom. And you might find that you have to chart a new course to ensure your long-term sustainability.
For more information on this data, please contact BIGinsight™.