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Mintel-Consumer-Spending-Perceptions-v-Actual-Behavior-July2013Americans increasingly believe they’re cutting back on small-ticket purchases in order to save money, found Harris Interactive in a recent survey, and new data from Mintel suggests that of 13 major consumer markets in the US, there are only 2 where a greater proportion of consumers believe they’re spending more today than less. An accompanying audit from Mintel indicates, though, that consumer beliefs aren’t matching up with their actual behavior: spending has risen in each of those same markets, per the researchers.

With regards to consumer attitudes, the data would suggest that out-of-home alcoholic drinks would have taken the biggest hit, with a 47% point net gap in favor of those believing they’re spending less on this area over the past year. But, actual consumer spending in this area has grown by 6% over the past year.

Other similar discrepancies emerge. While the net difference between those believing they’re spending more and those believing they’re spending less on dining out was -33% points points, actual spending grew by 6%. And while the net difference in beliefs was -32% points for home and garden spending, actual consumer expenditures in this area have grown by 5%.

The researchers suggest that these discrepancies indicate that “American consumers remain focused on getting the best deals for their dollars.” But it’s also a reminder that consumer attitudes often don’t translate into actual behavior. An alternative (and less likely due to the big discrepancies) explanation is that more consumers are actually spending less than spending more, but those spending less have cut back only by small amounts, while those spending more have significantly expanded their expenditures.

Other Findings:

  • 66% of Americans say they are spending money more cautiously now than they have over the past 5 years.
  • 68% say that over the past 5 years they have become more likely to pay attention to product prices.
  • About 3 in 5 conduct price comparisons, 54% buy items only if they need them, 53% use coupons more frequently, and 52% wait for discounts before buying bigger-ticket items.

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