SymphonyIRI Forecasts Cautious Consumer Outlook for 2010 ‘Summer Rituals’

Consumers across all income levels are planning to spend less this summer on vacations and dining out than in years past, according to results of new survey from the Chicago-based SymphonyIRI Group (formerly Information Resources, Inc.) of 1,000 Americans. Compared to a more optimistic outlook expressed by consumers in the summer of 2009, this year’s panelists are more apprehensive and thus selectively keeping their wallets closed to extras and cautiously open for essentials.

As with the previous years of 2008 and 2009, consumers plan to maintain their strategic approaches regarding where, how and on what their money is spent this summer, according to the SymphonyIRI survey, which also found other shifts in consumer behavior, such as the increase in cooking meals at home, the variety of outlets where consumers plan to shop, and the continuance of bargain hunting this summer.

Among the other noteworthy highlights of 2010 SynphonyIRI’s Summer Rituals survey:

—Increased cost consciousness and savvy shopping rituals: The slimming down of vacation budgets is happening across all income segments, and it’s happening more in 2010, vs. what SymphonyIRI saw in 2009. In the lowest income bracket, 57 percent of consumers plan to spend significantly less or not spend any money on vacations in 2010, a 15-point increase over 2009. While not as drastic, the same budget-tightening behavior is occurring across other income groups

—Vacation cutbacks don’t end with just the monetary budget: Consumers across all income groups plan to take fewer vacation days in 2010 compared with 2009. Many consumers aren’t planning any vacation days at all this summer. This includes the highest-earning households, where 10 percent of consumers say they won’t take vacation this summer

—Saving money and creating a healthier lifestyle are key focuses of cooking and eating habits this summer: This summer, three-quarters of consumers will cook and eat in a manner designed to help them save money. According to the recent SymphonyIRI/FMI Economic Update Survey, 31 percent of consumers are purchasing CPG products that allow them to cook more meals at the lowest total cost, 46 percent are giving up some of their favorite brands, and 34 percent are buying fewer healthier products because they’re perceived to be more expensive

—Shoppers continue to shift where they shop to maximize the return on their CPG investment: The survey found sizable growth within the dollar store channel, where 25 percent of consumers note they’ll shop this channel more frequently this summer. The club channel is also seeing strong growth. Across income segments, 12 percent to 18 percent of consumers plan to increase their trips to the club channel. Interestingly, the strongest growth for this channel is among households earning $100,000 or more, while the lowest growth rate is among shoppers earning $35,000 or less

—Thirty percent of panelists said they plan to use more locally grown produce in meals, while 48 percent said they plan to use the same amount as last year; only 5 percent plan to use less locally grown produce

—In terms of dining out, 39 percent plan to do so less this summer, while 48 percent of consumers plan to spend about the same as they did last summer. Not surprisingly, higher-income consumers are more inclined to be holding their dine-out budget steady this year, while lower-income consumers are more likely to be cutting their dine-out spend
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