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BIGinsight: Consumers Grow Skittish In December

Maybe it’s the news out of Washington, hanging on fiscal cliffs and debt ceilings, or just concern about the effect of Black Friday through Cyber Monday spending on their budgets, but, according to a BIGinsight study, consumers grew a bit more tightfisted in early December. After hitting a five-year high in November, consumer sentiment slipped back early this month, with 37.6% of respondents to the market research firm’s study very confident/confident in chances for a strong economy, down two points from last month.

Still, the proportion is the highest December reading BIGinsight has recorded since 2007, when the figure came in at 37%.

With some quarters scaring up images of the United States economy pitching off the fiscal cliff, 31.8% of consumers responding said they expect more layoffs, up significantly from last month’s 22%. At the same time 47.3% predicted the same layoff pace while 20.9% anticipates something lower

As far as spending is concerned, 48.1% of consumers said they’ve become more practical in their purchasing, up five points from November and remaining elevated versus the 46.9% figure for December of last year. More consumers, 53.7%, noted that they are focused on just what they need when at the store, up from 50.2% last month and in line with last year. Fiscal planning for the next three months has turned toward the frugal just over a third of consumers saying that paying down debt is a financial priority 33.7% and just under a third reporting that decreasing overall spending is important. Just over a quarter of study respondents said they plan to increase savings. To save money, BIGinsight noted particularly in the face of fluctuating fuel prices, 42.5% of consumers said they are shopping closer to home and 40.3% making fewer shopping trips.

In its category breakdown, BIGinsight’s three household-related product designations came out relatively strong on average. Although consumers reported plans for less spending in almost all categories, including Home Décor, intentions as regarding Home Furniture came in flat and those for Lawn and Garden up.