SOURCE: BIGresearch


September 15, 2009 12:19 ET

The Changing Behavior of the American Consumer

Less Confidence in Economy, Needs Over Wants, Sticking to a Budget and Spending Less

COLUMBUS, OH--(Marketwire - September 15, 2009) - The days of living large and running up debts have run their course for American consumers, according to BIGresearch's analysis of data from 2006 to 2009. Gone are the days of buying what you want, when you want it and enter the days of practicality, thrift, staying on budget and deferring purchases. All of this adds up to what may be emerging as a new consumer mindset: less willing to charge it on impulse and run up debt.

To give some perspective, consumers are much less confident in the economy than they were three years ago, are more practical in their purchasing and focused more on needs rather than wants.

                                              SEP 06      SEP 09      INDEX
Confident/very confident in the economy       43.4%       29.8%       69
More practical in purchases                   39.7%       49.7%       125
Focus more on needs v. wants                  49.5%       56.1%       113
Become more budget conscious                  38.7%       44.2%       114

Source: BIGresearch, CIA-Trends

As a way of coping with financial stressors on their budget, such as fluctuating gas prices, consumers say they are doing "more" of the following at a higher rate than just three years ago: buying store brands (35.3%, Sept. 2009 v. 23.5%, Sept. 2006), shopping for sales (43.1% v. 32.6%), shopping online (14.5% v. 11.1%) and using coupons (39.2% v. 22.5%). They are also more likely to only buy clothing when it's on sale, a shopping strategy carried out by almost a quarter (24.4%) of consumers in 2009 (v. 15.6% in 2006).

The percentage of consumers planning to make major purchases is off from 2006 for the following: house (3.3% v. 4.2%), vacation (12.3% v. 14.6%) and vehicle (9.5% v. 11.3%). The average planned expenditure for a vehicle in September 2009 is $19,718, lower than September 2008 ($20,796) and September 2007 ($20,979).

The new consumer is also more likely to defer purchases now than they did in 2006.

Deferred Purchases Over Last 30 Days (CONSUMERS 18+)

                                   SEP 06        SEP 09          INDEX
Apparel                            24.1%         30.0%           124
Home Improvement                   21.0%         27.6%           131
Electronics                        22.4%         26.9%           120

Source: BIGresearch, CIA-Trends

What does this mean for future purchase intentions for the near term holiday season and over the next five years?

Two in five consumers (39.9%) say they plan on spending less for gifts than last year this holiday season, while only 3.8% say they plan on spending more. When asked how the current economic crisis will impact their lifestyle over the next five years, 52.1% say they will consider each purchase more carefully, 48.8% will be more price conscious when buying clothes and food and 46.7% will stick to a budget.

"What we are seeing is a changed consumer," said Gary Drenik, President of BIGresearch. "The faltering economy, employment worries and questions about who's going to pay for healthcare are really weighing on the consumer' psyche. And if they do as they say, marketers will be dealing with a changed consumer that is less inclined to spend for the next several years."

For complimentary report with trended data and charts:

About BIGresearch

BIGresearch is a consumer intelligence firm providing analysis of behavior in areas of products and services, retail, financial services, automotive and media. BIGresearch conducts the monthly Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey (CIA) of 8,000+ respondents and the semi-annual Simultaneous Media Survey (SIMM) of 15,000+ respondents. It also conducts the monthly American Pulse Townhall Survey of over 4,000 Americans, making it the largest and most accurate online "townhall meeting." More information is available at

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