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BIGinsight: Consumer Confidence Struggled Up In August

Consumer confidence is gaining, according to a BIGinsight September survey, with almost 38% of respondents saying they are confident or very confident that the economy will grow. The improved sentiment, and the BIGinsight confidence reading is at a 13-month high, translates into flat spending on furniture but increased outlays on home décor over the next 90 days, the market research firm noted.

Yet while more than one in five consumers, 21.3% of the population is expecting fewer pink slips over the next six months, up from 16.9% in August and 12.8% a year ago, the consumer research firm noted that 24.9% predict more and 53.8% the same number of layoffs into early 2013.

Also, increasing confidence didn’t lead to decreasing frugality among consumers in September when 49.5% of survey respondent said they remain practical when purchasing, rising six points from August and remaining in line with September 2011.

Robust seasonal corporate hiring may have given consumers a bit more confidence about the economy going into the holidays, but the majority of consumers, at 56.8%, remain mindful about buying just what they need, up from 52% in August, and just below the 58.4% in September 2011.

Fiscal priorities in September remained decreasing overall spending, at 33%, and paying down debt, at 32.8%, both up slightly from August. An larger number of consumers said they plan to pad their bank accounts, 28.9%, and pay with cash more often, 20%, although that intention may not translate into economy-wide action.  The United States Bureau of Economic Analysis noted that consumer personal expenditures increased in August.

Nearly three-quarters of shoppers said that fluctuating gas prices impact their spending, with driving less and reducing dining out remaining popular options for easing pump pain.