An astounding 62 percent of surveyed shoppers earning under $35,000 per year consider themselves worse off than a year ago, and this sentiment ripples through consumers at all income brackets this back-to-school season, reveals new research released today by SymphonyIRI Group, Inc. Other findings include: 69 percent of all respondents are focused on watching spending and saving money; 46 percent of households earning more than $100,000 plan to shop more at supercenters, such as Walmart Supercenter and SuperTarget; 58 and 57 percent are stocking up on items because they are on sale and buying what's on sale versus their favorite brands.
It's not much better for higher-earning shoppers. Among households earning $35,000 - $55,000, 46 percent consider themselves a little or a lot worse off than last year. In fact, 37 percent of shoppers in households earning $55,000 - $100,000 share this sentiment, as do 30 percent of shoppers in households earning more than $100,000. This lack of confidence manifests itself in shopper purchase patterns. Just over 46 percent of survey respondents are buying a few back-to-school items initially and then filling in later on an as-needed basis. In addition, 42 percent are using back-to-school products left over from last year, and 40 percent are minimizing back-to-school purchases and figuring out how to extend the life of the products they buy.
Brand selection also reflects ongoing discipline focused on price. A majority of shoppers (58 percent) are stocking up on lunch box items that are on sale, 57 percent are selecting products guided by what's on sale versus preferred brands, and 46 percent are planning what to buy before visiting the store. Store brands continue to remain popular with shoppers of all income levels. When it comes to lunch box options, three-quarters believe store brands are equal to or better than the quality of national brands. Even among households earning more than $55,000, more than two-thirds say the quality of store brands are equal to or better than national brands. However, manufacturers have an opportunity among more affluent shoppers: at least 31 percent of those earnings more than $55,000 believe store brands have inferior quality to national brands.
Some 39 percent of parents (that don’t allow children to purchase lunch at school) agree or strongly agree with the following statement – “I may compromise on the nutritional value of the lunch and/or snack in order to save money.” Ninety percent of shoppers are strongly influenced by packing lunch items that “taste good” for their children. While only 47 percent of shoppers are strongly influenced by packing lunch items that is “low calorie,” 68 percent are strongly influenced by a low price point. On the beverage front, 14 percent said they’re likely to pack carbonated soft drinks much less often compared to last year; 21 percent said they’re likely to pack bottled water much more often compared to last year, and 16 percent said they’re likely to pack juices much more often compared to last year.Within the negative statistics of this report, it is easy to miss signs of recovery, but they are there. While 37 percent of consumers believe their financial situation will be better a year from now versus today, up from 31 percent in last December's SymphonyIRI Economic Update Survey. This more recent survey revealed 19 percent expect their situation to be worse off in a year, down from 23 percent in December's survey.