Respondents Surveyed
11/1 - 11/8/11

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The Consumer Intentions & Actions® Survey monitors over 8,000 consumers each month providing unique insights & identifying opportunities in a fragmented and transitory marketplace.


Talking Points:
- Confidence improves in November, but remains weak headed into Holiday ‘11
- Practicality, Focus on Needs drop this month as the holiday shopping season gears up
- One in three still expecting “more” layoffs over next
six months
- Two in five “worse off” financially compared to a year ago
Retailing Renaissance? A closer look at Layaway
- New #1 in Women’s Clothing: Kohl’s
- Payless puts the pressure on Walmart in Shoes
- 90 Day Outlook: Things are looking up for retailers
- What’s Hot…Giving Thanks or Black Friday? Or, giving thanks for Black Friday?


Consumers elected a slightly more optimistic economic outlook in November…23.7% are now very confident/confident in chances for a strong economy, up nearly two points from October (22.0%). However, this month’s “improvement” is overshadowed by the fact that this is the lowest November confidence reading since Nov-08 (22.3%). And to add insult to injury, sentiment was more than double what it is currently back in the Nov-06 heyday (50.3%).


It doesn’t look like the Occupy Wall Street demonstration in NYC is elevating concerns for political and national security issues…this month, about one in five (19.6%) say they continue to worry, down more than two points from October (21.9%) and one point from Nov-10 (20.8%).

Are consumers finally gearing up for holiday shopping? This month, just under half (45.2%) say they’ve become more practical and realistic in their purchasing, down five points from a month ago (50.8%) and on par with Nov-10 (45.0%).

Dear Santa: Please don’t send me socks AGAIN this year…it appears that jolly old St. Nick will be able to please more gift recipients this year, as those focused on necessities declines in November as well…this month, just over half (52.6%) say they zero in on just what they need when at the store, lowering more than five points from October (58.1%) and trending below levels seen heading into the past three holiday shopping seasons.

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With U.S. unemployment remaining high at 9.0%, consumers continue to hold little hope for improvement in the labor market…in November, about a third (32.1%) say they are expecting “more” layoffs within the next six months, down from 35.1% in October, but still higher than Nov-10 (26.7%). The majority of consumers (52.7%) are anticipating that layoff levels will remain the “same,” relatively flat from October (51.8%) as well as Nov-10 (52.6%). Finally, just 15.3% are holding hope for “fewer” layoffs, up slightly from October (13.1%), but five points below Nov-10 (20.7%).

While consumers’ outlook for the overall employment situation are gloomy, personal concerns about becoming laid off remain low…just 3.3% (of those fortunate enough not to have been laid off already) say they worry about being handed the pink slip, flat from last month (3.4%) and dipping slightly from last year (3.8%). Back in Nov-08, this figure (8.2%) was more than double the current rate, but a lot of jobs have been lost since then (read: when you don’t have a job, you don’t worry about losing your job...)

Make way for holiday shopping…consumers have eased their intent to decrease overall spending in November (30.6%) compared to last month (35.5%). It doesn’t appear that consumers will be prone to overspending, though, given that plans to pay down debt remain at the forefront and haven’t waivered from this month (32.4%) to last (32.9%). Additionally, one in four (25.4%) plans to increase savings, while one-fifth (20.6%) is paying with cash more often.

Financial Plans

In addition to the economic woes and the high unemployment rate, why else aren’t we anticipating a blockbuster shopping season this year? Two in five consumers (38.4%) say they are “worse off” financially compared to a year ago. Nearly half (46.7%) say they feel the same about their financial standing, while only 14.9% indicate they are “better off.”

While gas prices have been driven out of the headlines, average prices in the mid $3/gal range are still affecting purchase plans…among the 75.1% of consumers whose budgets are being pinched at the pumps, two in five (40.6%) are simply driving less, while about a third are reducing dining out (36.2%), decreasing vacation/travel (34.4%), and spending less on clothing (31.1%). Important note: all of these figures are elevated from Nov-10.

Drivers are bracing for higher gas prices this month compared to last…almost half (45.9%) believe the cost of fueling up will rise by month’s end (v. 32.9% in October), while nearly as many (45.5%) think prices will remain the same. Fewer than one in ten (8.6%) are hoping for a price decrease, a figure that dropped 50%+ in the past month (20.5%). The pump price prediction for the end of November is $3.61/gal, slightly higher than what was expected at the close of October ($3.53/gal).

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Layaway appears to be enjoying a retailing renaissance, as more than one in ten (12.2%) plan to use this service to help with holiday shopping this year…among these consumers, electronics (56.5%), toys (40.3%), apparel (32.5%), and jewelry (18.1%) are most expected to be put into layaway. Seven in ten layaway shoppers plan to use the services of Walmart (69.0%), while two in five (42.1%) will add items on account with Kmart. Additionally, nine out of ten layaway-ers (87.3%) indicate that the availability of a layaway program is a motivating factor when deciding where to shop this holiday season.

For additional insights on Layaway for the 2011 holiday shopping season, head over to the BIG Consumer Blog.

On the (not-so-fashionable?) heels of the news that Walmart is shuttering its NYC apparel offices, Kohl’s finally finds its way to the top spot in Women’s Clothing, besting the discounter in this category for the first time in BIG history. In November, 11.5% say they shop the department store darling most often, followed by Walmart (10.6%), JC Penney (7.4%), Macy’s (6.6%), and Target (2.3%).

Women's Clothing

Walmart retains the top title in Men’s Clothing with a slim two point margin over rival Kohl’s…this month, 13.1% head to the discounter most often for this category, while more than one in ten (11.0%) peruse the racks at Kohl’s. JC Penney (8.9%), Macy’s (5.7%), and Sears (3.2%) complete the Top 5.

Over in Shoes, Payless puts the pressure on Walmart…in November, 9.3% indicate they shop the discount specialty store most often for footwear, tying Walmart (also 9.3%). Kohl’s is also making nice strides here at just three points behind the leaders (6.0%), while DSW (4.4%) and JC Penney (3.4%) round out the Top 5.

Don’t be surprised if you see a few of Santa’s elves in line at Best Buy this year…the big box leads the Electronics category with one in three (33.3%) shopping there most often. One in five (18.0%) heads to Walmart, while Amazon (6.3%), Target (2.8%), and Sears (1.6%) round out the Top 5.

Dick’s brings its A-game to the Sporting Goods competition, outscoring Walmart by a point this month…the complete Top 5: 1. Dick’s Sporting Goods (13.0%), 2. Walmart (11.8%), 3. Sports Authority (4.4%), 4. Academy (3.7%), 5. BIG 5 Sporting Goods (2.9%).

Holiday 2011 is shaping up to be a battle of the Toy titans…discounter Walmart leads this category with one in five (20.0%) shopping there most often, just two points ahead of Toys R Us (17.6%). Target (6.2%), Amazon (2.1%), and Kmart (1.0%) follow.

For the Thanksgiving turkey and all of the trimmings, look for one in five (19.1%) to head to Walmart this year, the top destination for Groceries...the big W is followed by traditional grocers Kroger (7.3%), Publix (4.0%), Safeway (3.0%), and Shoprite (2.6%).

Is the trend toward [generally pricier] Organic foods and other products beginning to fizzle? This month, 55.2% say they regularly or occasionally opt for organic, down 12% from Nov-10 (62.6%). Among those who continue to purchase, produce (55.1%), dairy (31.8%), breads (30.2%), meat & poultry (30.2%), juices (29.0%), and cereals (28.7%) are the items added most often to shoppers’ carts. Those with the penchant for greener products shop most often at Whole Foods (9.3%) or Walmart (9.1%), while Trader Joe’s (6.0%), Kroger (5.2%), and Publix (3.0%) follow.

Walmart’s no powder puff in the Health & Beauty Care aisle…the big discounter leads this category with 30.3% shopping there most often for cosmetics, soaps, shampoos, and such, while #2 CVS (10.1%) follows 20 points back. Walgreens (9.0%), Target (7.2%), and Rite Aid (3.3%) round out the Top 5.

Not surprisingly, consumers shop a particular store most often for Health & Beauty due to price (69.0%)...location (49.5%), selection (45.4%), quality (23.9%), 24 hour availability (14.7%), and retailer trustworthiness (14.3%) are other top motivators.

While Walmart is the unquestionable king of Health & Beauty currently, are any competitors poised to chip away at the discounter’s throne in the foreseeable future? According to this month’s Consumer Migration Index (CMI), which tracks those who have immigrated to a store (new customers within the past year, “In”) against those who have emigrated (left within the past year, “Out”) and where a positive rating spells net growth to a retailer, it’s the druggists – CVS and Walgreens – who are enjoying customer surplus with +5.0 and +4.7 CMI ratings, respectively. Walmart, on the other is facing a vast customer deficit with a -9.2 CMI score:

Consumer Migration

Shoppers of one year or less cited high prices (23.6%) and inconvenient location (20.6%) as the top reasons to switch Health & Beauty Care stores...poor selection (7.5%), unavailability of correct products (6.7%), and poor quality (5.6%) were other motivating factors.

Traditional druggists have cornered the market for Prescription Drugs…this month, Walgreens (16.3%) and CVS (16.2%) are virtually tied for the lead in this category. Walmart (11.1%), Rite Aid (4.9%), and Target (2.5%) complete the Top 5.

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Things are looking UP for retailers as shoppers prepare to head to the stores this holiday season according to the BIGinsight™ Diffusion Index. All categories – from apparel to electronics to home décor – improve from last month, last year as well as the past two years. Good cheer this month, though, is tempered by the fact that all categories continue to fail to improve from pre-downturn Nov-07.

Retail Merchandise Categories - 90 Day Outlook
Nov-11 compared to Oct-11, Nov-10, and Nov-09)

90 Day Outlook

Those of us on the “nice” list may be getting an extra special surprise under the tree this year, as purchase intentions for several big ticket items – including autos, computers, mobile devices, and TVs – are on the rise this year compared to last:

BIG Ticket

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With all of the hubbub surrounding the holiday shopping season currently, it’s nice to know that the day before Black Friday Thanksgiving hasn’t been forgotten this month…Giving Thanks tops our list of what’s hot this month (according to 77.1%), trending just ahead of Black Friday and Tablet Devices. Young adults also say Nicki Minaj is a hit, while females in general are lining up for the premiere of the latest Twilight installment, Breaking Dawn. What’s not? While more popular among young women, virtual pinboard Pinterest doesn’t seem to be generating much interest among the public at large.






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