Surveys Show Paradox In American Consumer Mindset

Of course, surveys by nature are flawed. Yet, unless conducted by a trade group that crafts questions looking for particular responses, they are useful in drawing attention to an issue and serving as a baseline for agreement or skepticism.

Consider the results of an IHS iSuppli survey on consumer intentions for purchasing new TVs in the next year. In the second quarter, 83% of respondents indicated they had no intention of doing so.

This result marked the "highest negative level of response" to the question since it was first put forward last year -- well above the 66% who said no to purchase intentions in the first quarter, IHS iSuppli said

On the flip side, only 13% of respondents said they do plan to buy a new TV in the next 12 months, way below the 32% in the previous survey.

Not surprisingly, IHS iSuppli wrote that there is "an increasingly cautious buy­ing public, unnerved by the continuing gloomy picture painted by the economy."

Secondarily, IHS iSuppli found TV prices are now averaging $1,150, up 1.5% since June, so consumers may be waiting for a better deal.



(The survey was conducted among 45,000-plus U.S. homes culled from a "continually refreshed pool" of 2 million. Margin of error is 1.6%.)

TV set manufacturers may rightly be discouraged by a seeming lack of public hunger for a 3D TV, but these survey results shouldn't worry them. There is something about that need for a new second (or fifth) set that is inexorable. It takes a lot for American consumers to stop spending, despite what they may say.

Come the holidays and the Super Bowl, even the most discouraged consumers might pop down the plastic and buy a new set, perhaps persuading themselves the purchase is instead of a more expensive vacation.

A recent Associated Press story noted the paradox in the American mindset. A Conference Board report showed that consumer confidence tumbled in August. Yet despite that report, the AP noted, retail sales have been notably strong. "(People) tend to register their anxiety about the future in these surveys ... without actually curtailing their spending," Chris Rupkey, an economist at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, told the AP.

In TV metrics, there's much talk about a single-source measurement linking ad viewing to actual purchasing behavior. Sure, surveys do follow-ups, but there is a need for an improved single-source tracker, a sturdy way to link intention with actuality, especially when asking about one's expected behavior over a 12-month period.

Then, based on what happens, all sorts of conclusions can be drawn about why behaviors paralleled intentions or not -- a better economy, etc. -- which will of course lead to more questions.

2 comments about "Surveys Show Paradox In American Consumer Mindset".
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  1. Doug Garnett from Protonik, LLC, September 1, 2011 at 7:22 p.m.

    These numbers make complete sense.

    The advent of flat panels, and the added urgency of digital conversion, gave consumers very compelling reasons not just to buy the stray second set. Rather, it caused mass replacement of the primary television in the home.

    Why? Not necessarily picture quality. Flat screen's brought three values: picture quality, conveniently manageable weight, and new built-in digital support.

    Each household gave each of these a different weight (I doubt that picture quality was over 50% weight in the majority of households). But the equation was unequalled in giving them reason to act.

    But now? 3D is messy, not very compelling, degrades picture quality (or may be perceived to do that), doesn't increase quality for most programming, and clutters the living room with glasses.

    TV manufacturers should have been preparing for this time. Given usual cycles, my guess is it will be 10 or more years before they get another boom.

  2. John Grono from GAP Research, September 2, 2011 at 7:34 p.m.

    Agreed Doug.

    Coming at it from another angle, let's say that the 32% last year who planned to buy a TV in the next 12 months did buy one. Why would they be rushing out to buy another 12 months later? That's a third of people "out of the market". And I assume the prior year had high intention rates as well.

    It beats me how when confronted with said data anyone could conclude that is a paradox as opposed to a market cycle as you point out.

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