A little sun just went out of summer: When it comes to all of its most delicious rituals -- including food and family vacations -- more consumers are cutting back than last year, and are more apprehensive about the economy.
That's the latest from SymphonyIRI, which polled 1,000 adults about their summer spending plans. "Last year, the economy was inching in the right direction, and people had a sense that it would recover more smoothly," Susan Viamari, editor of SymphonyIRI's Times & Trends, tells Marketing Daily. "Then when that didn't happen, wallets started closing -- folks are emerging as a lot more conservative."
In some areas, the changes are most noticeable among lower-income families, "who were already living paycheck to paycheck when we entered the recession, and were then hit with rising prices and lost jobs," she says.
Among households earning $35,000 or less per year, 57% plan to spend significantly less or not spend any money on vacations in 2010, a 15-point increase from 2009. In others, high-income families -- those earning $100,000 or more -- lead the way; for example, more affluent families are most likely to seek out deals on their favorite brands.
But across all income groups, people are planning to take fewer vacation days this summer compared to 2009, and Viamari says consumers keep sharpening their increasingly well-established frugality skills.
For example, 75% say they intend to spend the summer cooking and eating in ways that will help them save money. (Some 39% say they plan to dine out less, while 48% of consumers plan to spend about the same as they did last summer on meals out of the home.) She expects these trends to continue and even increase, and not just because of the bumpy financial climate.
"These changes -- cooking more at home, cooking from scratch -- allow people to do things they want to do anyway, like spend more time with family and have better control of their nutrition and health."
And across the board, people are paying more attention to the stores they select, and dollar stores are the winners. "These stores have done a fantastic job of appealing to all kinds of consumers, even at higher income levels."
But while consumers are more apprehensive, she says they aren't grim about summer -- just increasingly innovative. "They aren't completely cutting out indulgences, they're just finding other ways to enjoy themselves -- 'Maybe we can go to Cape Cod instead of Disney Land,' or 'Let's find a campground near home,'" she says. "Cost-cutting and saving money is in. Everybody is doing it and nobody is ashamed."