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Generation Gap: The “Normal” only appears to be “New” to older Americans

October 23, 2012 1 comment

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®

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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

The New Normal, According to Consumers

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

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™.

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