For Downturn Shoppers Home Is Where The Best Deals Are

The ongoing economic downturn has spawned a new breed of consumer, downturn shoppers, who are continuing and extending their frugal practices, significantly impacting when, where and how they purchase consumer packaged goods.

By Diane Toops, News & Trends Editor

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A new Chicago-based SymphonyIRI (www.SymphonyIRI.com) Times & Trends Special Report, "The Downturn Shopper: Buckled in for a Wild and Crazy Ride," offers recommendations to CPG and retailer decision makers.

Based on results from SymphonyIRI's third quarter MarketPulse survey, an ongoing survey series commissioned to monitor shoppers' perceptions around the evolving economy, and the impact that the economy is having on personal financial conditions, lifestyle and shopping behaviors, and money-saving strategies, this survey reveals that a majority of shoppers remain pessimistic about their personal finances and that, as this pessimism continues, they are increasingly expanding money-saving practices, such as eating at home, extending the life of personal care products, utilizing a cleaning product for multiple tasks, clipping and downloading coupons, and using the Internet to find the best deals.

More than half of consumers surveyed dialed back the frequency of eating out in an effort to conserve. A similar number is creating and serving more "simple" and less expensive meals at home. Other household rituals they are observing include: Bringing snacks/food from home to school or work to save money (42 percent); Going to the doctor less and self-treating more to save money (36 percent) and Doing their own at-home beauty treatments in lieu of spas (35 percent).

"In this prolonged down economy, nearly one in four consumers find it difficult to afford their weekly groceries," says Susan Viamari, editor of Times & Trends. "As a result, many consumers are adjusting their food and beverage-related behaviors in an effort to save money. Through the MarketPulse survey, many consumers tell a story of optimism that has faded and been replaced with expectations that the economy will remain stagnant or weaken further. In reaction to this lack of confidence, a theme of 'conservatism' is prevalent across markets, channels, categories and consumer segments."

Shoppers are also approaching grocery shopping in a very measured manner, as they feel the need to budget and spend prudently. More than two-thirds of shoppers enter the stores with ready-made lists; A substantial and growing number of shoppers are combing circulars and coupons to find the best deals; and in stores, two-thirds have cut back on "non-essential" grocery purchases 

The Internet is rapidly becoming an integral component of the downturn shopper's money saving strategies. MarketPulse found of consumers research products on Web sites (26 percent), an increase of two points from the previous quarter; download recipes off Web sites and other online sources (39 percent) versus 36 percent in the second quarter; and download coupons from manufacturer Web sites (37 percent) compared to 35 percent in the previous quarter.

"Retailers and manufacturers seeking to succeed and remain profitable in today's challenging retail environment must consider implementing aggressive product and shopper marketing initiatives," says John McIndoe, senior vice president of marketing. "Most importantly, these initiatives must demonstrate value, not necessarily just based on price and convenience, but also on delivering relevance. To do so, CPG marketers must begin with a holistic shopper analysis, founded on an integrated analysis of frequent purchase data plus demographics, life stages, needs, usage and more."

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