Mintel: Consumers Staying Positive in 2009

Despite economic hardship, global consumers weren’t ready to merely accept the recession’s doom and gloom. A new report from Chicago-based Mintel has found that many sought to lighten their moods and secure financial safety with a focus on playfulness, simplicity and trade-offs.

A majority reported participating in enjoyment activities, with three in five traveling domestically. Money-saving strategies included visiting family, searching for deals or opting for less costly transportation methods. Over two-thirds of consumers said they had taken actions to simplify their lives within the past six months, and approximately 90 percent felt our society focuses too much on material items.

Although consumers looked to budget better by eating more meals at home (80 percent), they still splurged on smaller luxuries, such as premium chocolate and gourmet food, in grocery stores.

Consumers also made trade-offs from branded to private label products. Thirty-six percent of British consumers shifted to private label purchases, and U.S. store-brand sales increased year-over-year from Aug 2008 by 7.4 percent, according to data from The Nielsen Company.

“Private label offerings are booming. In fact, consumers have come to view private label products as quality branded (the store brand, of course) products. This will really benefit retailers now and into the future,” said Mintel’s director of research, Joan Holleran.

However, some more serious consumer concerns remain. Trust is down overall. Sixty-six percent of Americans have little faith in the financial services sector, and about 60 percent also worry about food safety. Budgeting is still a key strategy for two in five affluent U.S. consumers to gain financial control, and 13 percent of British consumers intend to increase their personal savings over the next year.

Holleran feels that retailers looking to attract budget-conscious customers can still take advantage of the trends resonating today by playing on the elements of fun and simple communication. “Savvy retailers who have looked beyond ‘me too’ to truly innovative products that deliver against consumer need are demonstrating they are committed to offering great products at affordable prices ... and the consumer doesn’t feel he or she is sacrificing. That’s a winning strategy.”
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