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Cautious Consumers Buckle Down for the Holiday Season


Susan ViamariSusan Viamari

Posted on Monday, October 29th, 2012

During the past several years, shoppers have become increasingly diligent in planning their holiday celebration related food and beverage purchases. Frugal consumers have embraced coupons, sacrificed gourmet items, and learned to meticulously plan their lists. Saving has become a way a life, and even the approaching holiday season won’t be enough to loosen purse strings.

SymphonyIRI’s Q3 MarketPulse™ study examined consumers’ budgeting and shopping plans for the 2012 holiday season, finding that shoppers are still proceeding very cautiously, planning their purchases and seeking any and all savings avenues. Forty-one percent of consumers feel that their financial position has deteriorated in the past year, and many shoppers intend to rein in their holiday spending. Specifically, 45 percent of consumers plan to spend less this holiday season, with 36 percent planning to spend less on their holiday-related food and beverages.

Consumers across all shopper segments are keeping their belts quite tight, but moms are especially intent on stretching their holiday dollars even further this year than they have in recent history. In fact, 45 percent of moms plan to reduce their holiday celebration-related food and beverage spending this year, compared to 36 percent of the population as a whole, and forty-six percent of moms aim to cut back on unplanned CPG purchases.  But, even frugal moms can be swayed: 47 percent plan to take more advantage of in-store promotions, and 44 percent are still buying premium and gourmet items along their route.

Moms aren’t the only ones cutting back—even the wealthiest shoppers are concerned about their financial health and watching their budgets as the holiday season approaches. As a result, 27 percent of wealthy households are taking measures to save money during the holidays, and very few are planning to spend more than they did last year.

Consumers across the board will be shopping strategically this year, employing various tools and tactics to maximize holiday savings. In particular, many customers plan to up their coupon use this year, with MarketPulse data revealing a particular emphasis on online-based coupons:

  • 41 percent plan to clip more newspaper and/or circular coupons
  • 39 percent plan to download more coupons from manufacturer websites
  • 36 percent plan to use more coupons from retailer websites
  • 36 percent plan to redeem more coupons received via email
  • 32 percent plan to print more coupons from social networking sites
  • 31 percent plan to use more coupons from group couponing sites

With so many consumers keeping their wallets clamped shut, this holiday season presents a challenge for CPG manufacturers and retailers. Still, it will offer opportunities for marketers that can deliver against the needs and wants of their key shoppers.  Throughout the past year, SymphonyIRI has been examining the many faces of the CPG shopper to understand what it is that drives purchase behavior in difficult economic times.  It’s a complex puzzle.  When looking at influencers of brand decisions, for instance:

  • Gen-Xers are much more heavily influenced by price than boomers and seniors
  • Shoppers over the age of 65 rely quite heavily on existing brand equity
  • Hispanics are much more heavily influenced by household requests than non-Hispanics
  • Millennial shoppers rely quite heavily on online sources of brand and deal information
  • Moms are more heavily influenced by shopper loyalty discounts versus the average shopper

To learn more about the many faces of the CPG shopper, click here for our full coverage of consumer segment trends.  What strategies will you use to entice shoppers this holiday season?

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2 Responses for "Cautious Consumers Buckle Down for the Holiday Season"

  1. Sangita Ray November 8th, 2012 at 12:45 PM

    Recession and the gloomy state of economy will continue to negatively influence the holiday shopping season. As people are becoming more cautious about money, they are trimming their gift lists. For themselves also, the focus is more on must haves rather than good to haves. Consumers are using more money-saving techniques like looking for coupons, comparison shopping as well as shopping at outlet or discount stores. Online shopping is also at a rise.

  2. Donna Sutton November 12th, 2012 at 4:25 PM

    I don’t fit any of the lists in the study above and find that I have cut my holiday food list anyway. I don’t really use coupons much – often I find they don’t actually print the ones I need at the time I need them, or they aren’t for things I need at all, or I shop at outlets that don’t take them/carry the items anyway.

    I decided that we’ll just stick to the basics for the Thanksgiving holiday meal so that we can splurge on other things – like perhaps some finer wines and desserts, and maybe a little more for the Christmas budget this year.

    Given the prices of things in most grocery stores and in general, I can see why the various demographics would be cautious this holiday season and use coupons and be price sensitive/cautious. My daughter’s family uses coupons. She’s quite savvy too – many weeks she brings home a treasure trove of groceries for what I’d say are pennies on the dollar! She’s become quite the coupon queen! It’s an art and a science and in this day and age, if you have children and pets and you shop for the things that CPG companies actually promote and coupon for, it’s a steal!

    For me, I will cut back on the amount of food/dishes and types of ‘gourmet’ dishes this year, enjoy a nice wine and dessert and be happy with that as my budget cut. I’m not trying to sound pompous – I just don’t use or really have ‘access’ to coupons per se. I just won’t be making that fancy schmancy braised bacon and capers brussel sprouts dish, or that organic tri-colored cardamon roasted carrots with hollandaise dish. It’s corn and green beans this year – and that will be just fine. But I will buy that nice bottle of Pinot Noir in the top row at the Total Wine… :)