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. Despite this, consumers are concerned with higher taxes, a soft job market and rising energy prices that could dampen a recovery. Deloitte also sees post-recessionary changes in buying habits that impact retailers.
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, Deloitte reports.
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, Deloitte says.
“Consumers appear to be picking up on the signals that point to brighter days ahead,” said Stacy Janiak, vice chairman and Deloitte’s retail leader in the U.S. “The majority of those surveyed indicate their net worth is stabilizing, if not improving. While consumers remain vigilant in this recovery, retailers should be encouraged by consumers’ tone as they plan for the critical fall and winter selling seasons.”
Consumers are alert to sales and 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.
“The recession may have altered the dynamics of the retail environment; however, given consumers’ recent spending activity and improving outlook, retailers should keep a sharp focus on the consumer’s shopping behavior and invest in areas that may drive loyalty in the months ahead,” said Janiak. “Retailers should consider expanding their customer analytics capabilities to make merchandising, staffing and inventory decisions that enable them to adapt to shifts in customer demand. Retailers may also be able to apply these insights to localize their product selection, promotions and pricing scenarios to deliver a customized shopping experience.”
Deloitte sees shoppers dialing into social networking and mobile tools and 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).
“Consumers are tuning in to online conversations to make informed buying decisions and redefining the way they interact with retailers,” said Janiak. “These platforms offer retailers a measurable and low-cost entry to reach consumers via multiple touch points. Retailers may also be able to increase online conversion through targeted communications, coupons and promotions that may drive customers to their in-store and online channels.”
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.
The survey was commissioned by Deloitte and conducted online by an independent research company between May 1 and May 3. The survey polled a sample of 1,052 consumers and has a margin of error for the entire sample of plus or minus three percentage points.