While consumers still indicate they are nervous about the economy, according to the results of the BIGresearch Consumer Intentions & Actions Survey, there is a mild thaw afoot. Still, there is no expected rapid rebound in consumer buying as people still remain very focused on buying for needs rather than wants, the March report said.
Takeaways from the survey, which checks in with 8,000 consumers each month:
>> In March, 29.8 percent reported they are confident/very confident in chances for a strong economy. That is up from February’s 27.2 percent, and also well up from a year ago (19.5 percent) as well as March 2008 (24.8 percent), but is still well below March 2007’s 46.9 percent.
>> 48.4 percent of consumers report they’ve become more practical in purchasing.
>> Those consumers focused on buying for needs over wants is up in March, as well, with 55.7 percent reporting they are focused on just the necessities when spending. That is up over February, which reported 52.1 percent focused on buying for needs over wants.
>> Consumers are feeling quite a bit better about their personal job security, which bodes well for retailers. The assumption is that workers with job security might feel a bit better about increasing spending in the coming months.
>> Just under half of consumers (45.3 percent) say they aren’t saving enough for future needs.
>> Even though gas prices are rising, it appears it is not yet affecting consumer plans. Only 38.5 percent indicate that they are driving less, while about a third are reducing dining out (35.2 percent) or decreasing vacation/travel (33.4 percent). Each of those numbers is lower than March 2009.
>> When it comes to shopping, 90.8 percent of consumers take to the Internet to research products they are thinking about purchasing in a store.
>> According to BIGresearch, while many categories continue to improve compared to last month and March 2009, men’s dress clothing and sporting goods are noted as especially bright spots.