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Shoppers’ “Untouchables”: New Research Uncovers What Consumers Won’t Live Without

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For Immediate Release
Kathy Grannis (202) 783-7971 or grannisk@nrf.com
www.stores.org

Shoppers’ “Untouchables”: New Research Uncovers What Consumers Won’t Live Without
-Survey Finds Fast-Food, Discounted Apparel and Cable TV “Untouchable”-

Washington, February 2, 2009 – While the economy is forcing many consumers to make sacrifices in order to save a few bucks, a handful of must-have’s remain on the list. A recent survey conducted by BIGresearch featured exclusively in this month’s issue of STORES magazine found that Americans have redefined what’s “untouchable” and what is “expendable” in their lives to adjust to the current economic climate. 

According to the survey, an overwhelming majority believe that internet (80.9%) and cell phone service (64.1%) are simply off limits. Shoppers also said that cable television (60.5%), discount shopping for apparel (43.0%), hair cuts and colors (40.0%), eating at fast-food restaurants (36.6%) and a new pair of shoes (24.0%) were on their list of untouchables. 

“The current economy has forced many Americans to find new ways to live and even shop,” said Susan Reda, Executive Editor of STORES magazine. “However, many consumers can’t imagine life without the Internet, text messaging, and basic cable.” 

While some items remain off-limits, Americans have been scaling back, with popular indulgences like facials and fine dining taking a back seat while people try to save money. According to the survey, 92.2 percent of consumers believe luxury handbags are expendable, followed by satellite radio (90.9%), specialty shopping for apparel (90.7%), high-end cosmetics (90.7%), maid service (90.0%) and facials (89.8%).

Despite common themes, differences exist among ages and genders in what people will and will not cut out of their budgets. For example, more women (70.0%) find cell phone service untouchable than men (57.8%), but more men find fine dining untouchable than women (12.3% vs. 9.1%). The survey also found that men (21.5%) seem to appreciate a new pair of jeans more than women (18.9%). Additionally, more 18-34 year olds find hair cuts or colorings expendable (69.9%) than 35-54 year olds (57.8%), though both age groups agree they cannot live without the use of their cell phone (64.8% of 18-34 year olds vs. 64.4% of 35-54 year olds). 

“Today’s economy has had an impact on every American, and retailers are dealing with very different shoppers than they were one year ago,” said Phil Rist, Executive Vice President, Strategic Initiatives, BIGresearch. “While many people have opted to trade down, some refuse to sacrifice certain luxuries, cutting items they feel are expendable to compensate.” 

About the Survey 

The survey, conducted for STORES magazine by BIGresearch, was conducted from December 16-18, 2008. The consumer poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.6 percent.

BIGresearch is a consumer market intelligence firm that provides unique consumer insights that are gathered online utilizing very large sample sizes. BIGresearch conducts the American Pulse™ Survey every month utilizing Survey Sampling International’s (SSI) U.S. panel covering topics such as politics, pop culture and the economy. Over 4,000 respondents participate, providing greater insights into how Americans really feel about issues they currently face. www.bigresearch.com

STORES Media is the publishing and communications group of the National Retail Federation, the world’s largest retail trade association. STORES Media offerings include STORES Magazine (print and digital versions), STORES.org, STORES Knowledge Series, STORES First Edition and STORES Retail Deals. STORES products report on the broad spectrum of strategic issues facing senior retail executives, including: retail technology, supply chain and logistics, credit and payment systems, loss prevention, human resources, online retailing, communications, marketing, merchandising and other vital store operations.  

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