Tense Consumers Ready to Lighten Up as Recession Dissipates

Tense Consumers Ready to Lighten Up as Recession Dissipates

 Sep 29, 2009

The recession is hitting consumers all over the world, and market researcher Mintel has been doing an ongoing analysis of those effects, rendering them as five major trends that will continue to impact why, how and where consumers shop. Some are worrisome, but some reflect a desire for greater normalcy, or at least a desire to emerge from under the cloud of economic gloom that has been spanning the globe.

  • Trust: a core consumer concern in 2009, as banks, food manufacturers and government officials command less confidence as the economy makes any failure, even something as distinct from finance as a salmonella scare, more ominous. Mintel asserted that, in the United States, six in 10 consumers worry about food safety. Lack of trust is an international issue, and, in the United Kingdom, major brands have been tainted by the shortcomings of big financial institutions such that 39 percents of budget-minded Britons are turning to even more private label products than they previously purchased.
  • Control: a factor that potentially could have a long-term influence on retail expenditure, as a Mintel survey of affluent American adults demonstrated that two in five intend to permanently spend less and decrease their reliance on credit cards as they increase control over their finances. In the U.K., despite a more extensive social safety net, about 13 percent of the population intends to increase the pace of saving in the next year or so, while another six percent who aren’t currently saving report they will start.
  • Trading down, up and over: as consumers evaluate spending opportunities. About 80 percent of Americans report that they are cooking at home more now and 52 percent say they are spending less at restaurants this year than last, while 54 percent of Brits are buying more food on special offers and 36 percent say they are trading down to budget private label brands. Despite that, in what could be an example of pent up demand looking for an excuse to unleash itself, many consumers demonstrate a desire to trade up in price and quality on small rewards, such as fine chocolate and perfume, earned for other virtues. In the meantime, a proportion of consumers purchase gourmet food as a somewhat indulgent but affordable alternative to the eating out they used to do.
  • Playfulness: arising despite, or perhaps in response to, economic pressures, as part of a determination among people to enjoy themselves. In the United States, 60 percent of consumers said they traveled domestically in the past year. They were more likely to visit friends and family as a means of saving some cash, or to spend time looking for travel bargains and cheaper transportation rather than to spend money going first class. Manufacturers have sensed the trend and released quirkier, more light-hearted new products. The main question there is: Do the KISS Mr. Potato Head figures recently spotted at Walmart count?
  • Simplicity: a desire two-thirds of Americans responding to a Mintel study expressed as an effort to unscramble their lives over the past year. Another trend that’s caught the eye of manufacturers, the get back to basics urge has prompted products that offer clean functionality, simple ingredients and less weighty packaging, Mintel asserts, while encouraging restaurants to include all-inclusive meal deals that spell out exactly what folks will get for their money.

“At the end of last year, we knew 2009 was going to be difficult for people across the globe,” said Harry Foster, global analyst at Mintel. “But as we review our five consumer trend predictions, we see that optimism has steadily balanced out stress and economic hardship. The first half of the year was especially challenging, but with tentative, recent green shoots of recovery, we expect people’s attitudes to brighten considerably in coming months.”

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