Deloitte: Consumers Embracing Frugality

According to Deloitte’s 2013 American Pantry Study, consumers in the United States will keep their household spending level even as the economy improves. In the study, 94% of Americans stated that they would remain cautious in their everyday purchasing.

When it comes to shopping, 92% of consumers surveyed noted that they have become more resourceful and 86% they were getting more precise in what they buy, attitudes that have remained consistent in the three years Deloitte has conducted the study and across income levels, the market research firm stated.

The idea that they can make more from less is prevalent, as 72% of survey respondents indicated that, even though they are spending less on household items, the effort doesn’t feel much like a sacrifice, a seven percentage point increase in two years.

Major labels mean less to consumers today, or so the Deloitte study suggests, as 88% of survey respondents reporting that they have found several store brands that they feel are just as good as national brands. Few consumers plan to switch back from private labels they like to national brands, with only 27% of survey respondents saying they plan to do so as the economy rebounds, an eight percentage point decline from the previous year, Deloitte pointed out.

“One of the most notable year-over-year trends in the study is how embedded frugality has become due to the recession,” said Pat Conroy, vice chairman, Deloitte LLP and consumer products sector leader. “Prudent consumers and improving perceptions about store brands are squeezing national brands’ position. The gap between the few ‘must have’ brands on shoppers’ lists and others on the shelf may be widening, making it more important for brands to differentiate through innovation, quality and performance. Consumer product companies may also consolidate low and mid-level performers and shift investment to the category leaders.”

Among other findings, the Deloitte study demonstrated an unmet demand for online shopping options, particularly for in-store pickup and at-home delivery. Although 14% of shoppers surveyed buy consumer products online and pick them up in the store today, 43% said they would like to do so.

Interest in mobile technology also is growing and at a higher rate among baby boomers than younger consumers, with 23% of respondents age 45 to 70 saying they are interested in using mobile coupons they can scan at the checkout. That proportion was up from 12% in last year’s survey, Deloitte maintained, compared with a six percentage point increase among respondents age 21 to 29.