Consumers Say Cable TV More Expendable Than Mobiles

February 7, 2012

stores-most-untouchable-items-feb-2012.jpg2 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

stores-top-areas-for-shopping-cuts.jpgAmong 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.

Other Findings:

  • 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.

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