Disciplined Women Downgrade Retail Spend, Entertainment

April 6, 2009

Americans of all ages, genders and income levels are reducing their overall shopping spending, trading down to less expensive brands and switching to private labels, but women are more likely to show more cautious fiscal restraint in the current recession, according to a shopping behavior survey from Miller Zell.

The “Miller Zell/NRN 2009 Shopper Behavior Survey,” which was undertaken to determine if the economy is impacting female and male shopping behaviors differently, finds that women are now more likely than men to trade down products and shopping locations (e.g. national brand to private-label brand, or premium retailer to discount retailer) and to drive tighter fiscal discipline in home and entertainment expenditures, including reducing family nights? and girls’ or guys’ nights out, the research reveals.

The study also found that wage earners who make more than $100K annually are far more negative about the economy than all other wage-earning categories.

Key findings from the survey:

Pre-Planning and Online Research Way? Up

Perhaps not surprisingly, increases in pre-store purchase planning and internet research before shopping indicates shoppers are coming to the retail store more armed with knowledge of pricing, product capabilities and competitor products:

  • 60% of respondents are doing more pre-planning before shopping trips than they were a year ago.
  • 44% say they are doing more online research than they were a year ago (42% of men and 45% of women).


  • Younger respondents tend to be doing more online research than older respondents, while age and income seem to have very little effect on online research

Grocery Spending Least Affected

At least two out of five respondents are spending less on most categories tested except grocery, where 46% are spending the same as before, and 16% are spending more, the survey found.


Miller Zell noted that this could be a result of higher prices and/or more decisions to eat at home. In terms of other categories with large decreases in spending, 61% of respondents are spending less in electronics and 64% are spending less in apparel.

Downgrading and Brand Switching Rampant

The survey found that at least half of respondents are downgrading the grocery brands they buy and 87% report brand switching. In the apparel category, one-third of respondents report switching to store brand apparel.

Less Dining Out

In terms of dining out and entertainment, 68% of survey respondents say they are doing more “insourcing” of out-of-home dining and half have brought special occasions or family nights into the home that they previously enjoyed out:

  • Special occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries are the most likely to be brought into the home, followed by family night.


  • Guys’ and girls’ nights out are the two events least likely to be brought into the home.

When profiling downgraders, Miller Zell found,? age and income have very little variance from the overall sample, while women have a higher likelihood be downgraders,? specifically in eating at home, downgrading grocery and department stores, and going from specialty retailers to value mass merchants.

Increased Overall Optimism

Despite behaviors that indicate they are buckling down now, respondents in all gender, age and wage categories indicate greater optimism (as represented by increased expected future spend) six months from now than currently, the survey found.


About the survey: The survey was performed by National Research Network (NRN). Some 801 online surveys were completed the week of December 22, 2009 with an average respondent age of 46 and annual income of $65K. The survey sample was 52% male and 48% female.


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