The recession may be over, but the majority of consumers -- 52% -- say it doesn't feel that way, according to Deloitte's latest consumer survey. And they're worried about rough seas ahead, too, with 71% anticipating that higher gas prices will affect their ability to spend in the coming months.
"This is a very deliberate, calculating consumer," Ellen Basilico, a partner in Deloitte's retail practice, tells Marketing Daily. " And they are still focused on building their balance sheet. For example, of the 59% who expected to get a refund, 46% said they planned to pay bills and credit cards. As they're getting cash, their first inclination isn't to spend it."
Inflation is definitely on their radar, says the San Francisco-based expert. In addition to concerns about energy prices, 47% are worried about higher medical costs. And -- in a key finding for stores -- while they've been checking out new merchandise, 53% say products seem pricier. Just 27% of consumers say stores are offering more value for their money, down from 45% who said so at this time last year. And 54% say stores seem to have less sales help on hand. "They're watchful of inflation, and keeping a close eye on prices," she says.
More evidence of their renewed focus is that 60% say they are shopping online to find the best product or price, including 56% of those who are 45 and older. "It's about 64% for those younger than 45," she says, "so we are seeing that belt between the two age groups get tighter all the time."
But there are still considerable tech differences among age groups. While 31% of consumers under the age of 45 expect retailers to provide access to information through applications, social media, or mobile alerts, just 17% of older shoppers do.
Overall, 43% of shoppers with smartphones have used them to search for something while inside a store.
There are also big differences based on income levels. Those earning more than $100,000 have a "more elastic, optimistic point of view," she says, with 45% saying their confidence in the economy has improved over the past six months. Among those earning less, only 24% expressed that confidence.
The survey included 1,050 adults.