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Though the latest recession officially ended, 92 percent of U.S. Internet consumers believe the country is still in a recession, and another almost two thirds (61 percent) reported doubting the economy will be out of the recession within a year.
That’s according to a new report from Nielsen, whose Global Online Consumer Confidence Survey, established in 2005, tracks consumer confidence, major concerns and spending intentions among more than 28,000 Internet consumers in 56 countries.
Consumer confidence levels above and below a baseline of 100 indicate degrees of optimism and pessimism. For the quarter, the U.S. consumer confidence index fell by one point to 77 – the second straight quarter the United States has declined - putting the country 11 points below the global average of 88.
In a reflection of national sentiment, when asked, “How will you spend spare cash?” the top U.S. response, given by nearly one third of respondents (32 percent), was that they have no spare cash. Of those with spare money, 31 percent reported plans to stash it away in savings and another 28 percent said they will pay down debt.
Compared to last year, 76 percent of respondents reported changing their spending habits to save on household expenses. Of the changes made, the top three were saving on gas and electricity (65 percent), cutting back on out-of-home-entertainment (62 percent) and spending less on clothes (59 percent). Switching to cheaper grocery brands (58 percent) and buying take-out less often (54 percent) rounded out the top five.
Despite an overall decline in consumer confidence, Nielsen analysis indicates that affluent households ($100,000+ annual income) have exited the recession and are shopping and spending. “The bifurcation of U.S. shopping habits shows up in performance among retailers who appeal to more affluent shoppers, such as high-end department stores, specialty and warehouse club chains,” said Todd Hale, Nielsen SVP of consumer and shopper insights. “And value retailers like dollar stores, which attract affluent shoppers also, continue to post higher same-store-sales results than their peers.”
Once the economy improves, the study revealed many respondents plan to continue with certain “new normal” saving strategies. Among them, 52 percent of respondents reported plans to continue looking for ways to save on gas and electricity, 36 percent will avoid take-out meals and 35 percent plan to continue buying cheaper grocery brands.
The Nielsen Global Online Survey, conducted between Aug. 30 and Sept. 16, polled more than 28,000 consumers in 56 countries throughout Asia Pacific, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and North America. The sample has quotas based on age and sex for each country based on their Internet users, and is weighted to be representative of Internet consumers and has a maximum margin of error of ±0.6 percent.
Nielsen Holdings N.V. is a global information and measurement company with leading market positions in marketing and consumer information, television and other media measurement, online intelligence, mobile measurement, trade shows and related properties.