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US consumers remain cautious

News, 28 October 2016

CHICAGO: Contrary to some recent reports that have suggested US consumers are willing to spend more this holiday season, a new survey indicates that forthcoming holiday sales are likely to remain steady compared to last year.

Research firm IRI polled more than 2,200 US adults for its latest Consumer Connect survey and found that uncertainty about the presidential election is adding to concerns about personal finances.

According to the survey results, more than half (55%) of consumers said their spending this holiday season will remain much the same as last year and 47% already felt their household finances were strained.

Around two-thirds of those feeling this financial strain also reported that they think things will get worse before they get better.

As a result, 54% of those with strained household finances will spend less this year than they did in 2015, while a third (34%) of those with strained finances said they will spend the same.

"The uncertainty associated with the presidential election, particularly this unconventional election, is coinciding with the holiday shopping season, adding to concerns about keeping the financial ship afloat during and after the transition in the Oval Office," said Susan Viamari, VP of Thought Leadership at IRI.

"As a result, consumers are really taking a cautious approach to the holidays this year," she added, while advising brands and retailers to target their deals and messaging to appeal to these cautious consumers.

"Even though many consumers will be keeping a close eye on holiday expenses this year, there are still opportunities for retailers and manufacturers to drive volume and margin," she said.

"Finding these opportunities, though, is all about getting granular. Retailers really need to invest to know their customers and personalise their offerings."

For example, 31% of cost-conscious shoppers will take advantage of promotions found online compared to 28% of the overall population, while 41% will rely on private label solutions to save money compared to 35% of other shoppers.

Similarly, a quarter (25%) of those with strained finances said they will purchase products in bulk this holiday season to save money, while 13% will buy additional or unplanned items on seeing in-store deals compared to 17% of the overall population.

"We are firmly planted in a time of change, and consumers are concerned about what the new year will bring, so they are adjusting their budgets accordingly," Viamari concluded. "Retailers and manufacturers that help shoppers keep these holiday resolutions will enjoy the bounties of the season."

Data sourced from IRI; additional content by Warc staff