2 in 3 consumers say that their basic mobile or cell service is an untouchable item of their budgets, representing a 4.7% increase from 64% who responded that way in 2008, according to a survey conducted in 2011 for STORES Magazine by BIGinsight, released in February 2012. By comparison, 60% of respondents in 2011 said that their basic cable/satellite TV was untouchable, down slightly from 61% in 2008.
Young consumers tend to see more expanded mobile phone capabilities such as internet access and texting as being untouchable: only 50% of those aged 18-34 saw these services as expendable, compared to 84% of those aged over 55. Similarly, younger users (39%) are are the most likely to see upgraded mobile devices such as smartphones, iPads, tablets, and e-readers as a necessity, ahead of 35-54-year-olds (26%) and those over 55 (13%).
Overall, internet service is rated the most untouchable item, by 82% of respondents, relatively unchanged from 2008 (81%).
Mobile Devices Replace TV, Internet Service
The proportion of consumers who view basic cable/satellite TV as expandable is significantly higher among smartphone users (45%) and tablet owners (47%) than the average (40%). This may be related to the propensity of these users to watch their favorite content online: according to a Deloitte survey released in January 2012, 9% of Americans have cut their pay TV connection because they can watch all their favorite shows online, while a further 11% are considering doing so.
Internet service providers are not immune to cuts by mobile device owners, though: according to the STORES survey, the percentage of tablet owners who view internet service as expandable is 33% higher than the average (24% vs. 18%), although smartphone users (19%) are relatively on par with the average.
Fine Dining Top Area for Cuts
Among consumers who have cut back or plan to, fine dining tops the list of areas where cuts are made, cited by 64%, ahead of movie theater tickets (58%), vacations (57%), new jeans (54%), and fast-casual restaurants (52%).
Among these categories, fine dining was considered an unnecessary expense by 89% of all shoppers, followed by movie theater tickets (81%), fast-casual restaurants (76%), and vacations (71%). Women are more likely than men to say a new pair of jeans is expendable (81% vs. 75%).
Luxury Goods Most Expendable
The most expendable item chosen by consumers in 2011, as in 2008, was the luxury handbag (93%), although this was matched by the proportion citing maid service. Other items most consumers could see themselves doing away with were high-end cosmetics, club/social memberships, and high-end jewelry (all at 92%).
Satellite radio continues to be viewed as highly expendable, cited by 91% in 2011, unchanged from 2008.
- Organic foods have continued to become more untouchable, rising to 19% in 2011 from 15% in 2008.
- Department store apparel shopping also gained, with 26% rating it untouchable, compared to 19% in 2008.
- Fitness and gym memberships were rated untouchable by 18%, up from 16% in 2010 and 14% in 2008.
- Magazine subscriptions, by contrast, were seen as expendable by 87% in 2011, up from 85% a year earlier.
About the Data: The BIGinsight-American Pulse Survey was conducted in December 2011 among more than 6,000 shoppers.