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Consumers’ tenuous outlook for the economy is evident in October…just 35.7% indicate they are confident/very confident in chances for a strong economy, down from 37.9% in September. Still, current sentiment represents a vast improvement over Oct-11 (22.0%).

With the official U.S. unemployment rate recently dipping to 7.8%, the employment outlook improves to levels last seen during Q1 of 2012…this month, one in five (21.9%) predicts “fewer” layoffs over the next six months, up from 21.3% last month and 13.1% a year ago. However, the vast majority of consumers still predicts “more” (23.3%) or the “same” (54.8%) number of layoffs headed into early 2013.

Despite major goings-on in D.C. (see: fiscal cliff, Presidential election, et al), worry about political/national security issues remains on even keel…just 20.9% are expressing concern in October, relatively flat from last month (20.4%) and much lower than the 30.8% who felt this way amid the McCain v. Obama election and visible economic meltdown in Oct-08.

Practicality remains intact in October…nearly half (48.2%) profess pragmatic purchase tendencies this month, lowering slightly from last month (49.5%) and year (50.8%), but remaining elevated from pre-recession Oct-07 (38.6%).

Is it possible to “friend” Santa on Facebook? With the majority of consumers (56.1%) still focused on buying just what they need, perhaps the social media site is onto something with that “want” button. Though down two points from a year ago (58.1%), this month’s figure remains in line with October readings recorded during the recession.

With the holiday spending season on the horizon, consumers seem to be fiscally focused this month, with plans to decrease overall spending (36.4%) and pay down debt (33.9%) rising from September and Oct-11. More than a quarter (28.1%) also plans to increase savings, the highest October reading we’ve seen in six years (Oct-06 = 29.3%).

Fewer consumers say that gas prices are impacting their spending compared to a year ago, but at 73.1% - that’s still a lot of people experiencing the pain at the pump…driving less (44.0%) and reducing dining out (36.9%) remain top options for curbing fuel costs. Drivers are anticipating an average pump price of $3.90/gal by October 31, the same amount anticipated for the end of September.

Walmart continues to lead across all categories featured in this month’s retail roundup, besting Kohl’s and Payless once again in Women’s Clothing and Shoes (respectively).  Also in footwear: JC Penney wrangles its way back into a solo #5 position over Target, Macy’s, and Foot Locker. And, while Walmart holds the top spot in Toys, the competition might be a little tougher for Holiday ’12: Toys R Us and have both gained YOY customer share.

Retail Roundup - October 2012

Holiday ’12 is shaping up to be a brighter shopping season, with the 90 Day Outlook improving for all categories this month compared to October spending plans for the past four years (2008 – 2011). Look back before the recession, though, and you’ll see the wrench Grinch in consumer spending plans: save for Lawn & Garden and Sporting Goods, all categories continue to face downward compared to Oct-07.

90 Day Outlook

With confidence flagging in October, six month purchase plans for high dollar durables are also looking less bullish compared to 30 days ago. The encouraging news for retailers? Several key gifting categories – including autos, computers, furniture, jewelry, mobile devices, and vacation travel – are on rise compared to Oct-11. And, perhaps we’re on the verge of a DSLR buying trend…plans to purchase digital cameras are at their highest in nearly two years.

Consumers seem bent on scaring up a good time come October 31, with Halloween topping our list of What’s Hot for October. Additionally, it appears that the new Kindle Fire HD may be found under many a Christmas tree this year, Google’s Android OS slightly outpaces Apple’s iOS, and late-blooming action star Liam Neeson round out the top 5. Finally, it doesn’t look like we’re going to be in for Honey Boo Boo: The Teenage Years…the TLC train wreck of a TV show has been crowned Little Miss “Not” Hot for October.


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