Saturday, June 11, 2011

What’s Hot? Saving a buck or two (or even a thousand!)

If you, like me, are addicted to Phil Rist's monthly tracking of consumer attitude trends, here we go again:

Chalk it up to being par for the course…consumers aren't going to let a good old-fashioned Twitter scandal elevate their concerns for political and national security issues. This month, fewer than one in five (18.9%) say they continue to worry, down more than a point from May (20.4%) and more than two points from a year ago (21.1%).

Perhaps due to the lack of solid improvement in the economy, practicality is creeping upward in June…nearly half (48.5%) report that they’ve become more sensible and realistic in their purchasing, up from 44.8% in May, 46.3% in Jun-10, and the highest June reading in our survey’s history.

In similar fashion, focus on the necessities climbs high in June…55.2% (also a record for June) are simply sticking to what they need when shopping, up slightly from last month (54.9%) and rising more than a point from last year (53.8%).

With the official unemployment rate inching up to 9.1% this month, consumers’ outlook for the job market darkens in June…this month, 28.1% predict there will be “more” layoffs over the next six months, rising from 26.6% 30 days ago. The majority (54.6%) contend that layoff levels will remain the same (up from 53.3% in May), while under than one in five (17.4%) expect “fewer,” down nearly three points from last month.

Despite rising pessimism for the employment outlook, those currently on a payroll seem secure about keeping their jobs…in June only 3.4% are concerned about being handed a pink slip, down ever-so-slightly from last month (3.6%).

While paying down debt (31.4%) remains the top priority for consumers, fewer are planning to do so compared to one year prior (32.5%)…instead, decreasing overall spending (30.1%) and adding to savings (26.4%) are the rising stars this month, up from 28.7% and 24.7% 365 days ago, respectively. One in five (20.6%) intends to pay with cash more often, on trend with Jun-10 (20.9%).

It’s progress, people…despite the fact that more than two in five (43.0%) currently say they disagree that they are saving enough for future needs, this figure has improved three points from a year ago (46.4%). More than one in four (26.6%) agree that their piggy banks have the heft to bear expenses in the long-term, up more than two points from Jun-10 (24.2%).

With pricing at the pump easing over the past month, fewer (77.9%) are feeling a major impact to their wallets compared to last month (80.3%), but let’s face it – that’s still A LOT of people…simply taking fewer shopping trips (45.6%) appeals to the most penny pinchers as an option to defray fuel expenses. Shopping closer to home (43.4%), hunting up bargains (42.8%), and using coupons more (40.5%) follow.

Though gas companies typically exercise their freedom to raise prices around Independence Day, consumers seem cautiously optimistic about the short-term direction of the cost of fuel…while the largest group (45.7%) still contends that pump prices will rise by the close of June, this figure is a great deal lower than sentiment recorded a month ago (74.2%). More than one in three (36.1%) say the price per gallon will remain the same, while nearly one in five (18.2%) are hoping for further declines, much brighter than in May (7.0%). Drivers are anticipating an average price of $3.91/gal by June 30th, lowering from the $4.25/gal expected at the end of May.

Saving a buck or two (or a thousand, if you are featured on a certain TLC show) is what’s hot this month, according to the 61.6% who voted for the Extreme Couponing trend. Saving gas with Hybrid Automobiles (59.6%) is in vogue, as is X-Men: First Class (56.9%). Men are also looking forward to Green Lantern, while women are watching their Community Gardens grow. What’s Not? It’s tough when you’re less popular than Arnold “The Adulterator” Schwarzenegger, but January Jones failed to achieve “It Girl” status this month.

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