Nielsen Researcher: Wall Street And Consumer Confidence Diverging

James Russo

The stock market may be improving, but consumers have little faith that an economic recovery is imminent. In fact, they may have an increasingly more bleak outlook, according to a top Nielsen researcher.

In the U.S., data shows that over 90% of homes still believe the recession is continuing, while those who feel a turnaround is on the way seem to be declining. The latest Nielsen research shows that just 21% believe a recovery is coming, down from 24% in the previous Nielsen survey.

"They're becoming more pessimistic," said James Russo, vice president, global consumer insights at Nielsen.

Speaking at an annual Advertising Research Foundation event, Russo did say consumers are "soften(ing)" a bit with discretionary spending. But canning and storage supplies continue to sell well -- an indication of altered consumer habits.

And spending on clothing, takeout meals and vacations remains sluggish. People are also less likely to trade up with technology products.

"Consumers are telling us they have accepted this recession," Russo said. "They have accepted this new normal, and that's a very critical component from a behavioral standpoint."

He suggested the scars will not go away easily, and the changed purchase behaviors may continue even when a recovery does set in.

Referencing Wall Street's recent uptick while putting on a marketer's hat, Russo said: "Don't focus on the financial markets -- focus on the consumers."

Jobs continue to be critical with consumer confidence, he said, noting indicators within the high national unemployment rate. Among college-educated households, that rate is 5% -- and those just finishing college also look to be having trouble, with the unemployment rate at 16% for Americans ages 20 to 24.

Separately, Russo revealed some other insights from Nielsen's consumer research bank -- notably that by 2020, everyone in the world will have access to a mobile phone.

"When you think about the marketing implications of that, it's really staggering," he said.

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