Monday, May 31, 2010

Survey Finds Consumers Recharged

Consumers are becoming confident about the economic recovery and their finances are on the mend, according to a new survey of consumer retail spending and trends from Deloitte.

More than half (55 percent) of consumers think the economy has started to recover from the recession, and nearly two-thirds (64 percent) indicate their household financial situation is the same or better compared with a year ago. In addition, nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of survey respondents said they are planning to spend the same or more at retailers this year than they did in 2009.

Despite this show of confidence, consumers are mindful of events that could impact their financial situation. More than half of consumers (54 percent) say rising energy prices could cause them to hold back their spending in coming months; more than four out of 10 say higher taxes (45 percent) and lack of improvement in the job market (41 percent) could do the same. Roughly one out of four (27 percent) believe that the economy is recovering but may fall back into recession.

Consumers have taken notice of the operational changes that retailers made in response to the recessionary downshift in demand. Fifty percent of consumers surveyed believe that retailers are currently offering more sales or deals in response to the recession. However, more than half (53 percent) also think there is less sales help in the stores today, and 43 percent say there is less inventory in the stores.

Some of the frugal shopping habits that consumers picked up during the recession are lasting into the recovery. Almost half (45 percent) of consumers surveyed said they shopped at certain stores to save money during the recession, and approximately seven out of 10 (71 percent) consumers plan to continue to do so even as their financial situation improves.

Consumers are demonstrating new, post-recessionary shopping patterns linked to social, mobile and online tools.

While one-third (33 percent) are purchasing more online compared with a year ago, the Web has become an integral part of the in-store shopping experience as well, with three-quarters (75 percent) of consumers indicating that they look online for store, price or product information before or during their in-store shopping.

More than half (56 percent) of respondents indicate they use social networking sites, and among them, more than four out of 10 (43 percent) interact with retailers through these channels. Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of them do so to find out about promotions, almost half (48 percent) browse products and more than one-third (35 percent) review the recommendations found on those sites.

Consumers are also heeding the favorable – and the unfavorable – opinions delivered via online product reviews. Half of consumers say that an online product review has influenced their decision to buy a product (51 percent) – or to not buy a product (50 percent).

Mobile shopping platforms are also getting consumers’ attention. More than one in five (21 percent) consumers have used a Web-enabled mobile phone in the shopping process. More than one-third of these consumers have shopped on a website (36 percent) or compared product prices (35 percent). Nearly three out of 10 (29 percent) have researched product information online and one-quarter (25 percent) have purchased a product on a website while using their mobile phone.

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