Postponed Purchases a Plenty
Apparently due to a combination of newfound frugality stemming
from the downturn as well as a desire to live greener, consumers are delaying
purchases on both major to minor purchases, according to an article in The
New York Times.
According to Polk, a research firm, consumers are keeping
their new cars a record 63.9 months, up 4.5 months from a year ago and up 14
percent since the end of 2008. People are upgrading cell phones on average
every 18 months, up from 16 months a few years ago, industry analysts told
Laptops are being held onto an average of four years and four months, a month
longer than they did a year ago.
It isn’t the same across all items. According to NPD,
consumers in 2010 upgraded major kitchen appliances like refrigerators faster
than they did in 2008 or 2009. Similar trends were seen in smaller kitchen
and personal care appliances.
But the Times also found people, for example,
mending, sewing and taking extra steps to remove stains in bids to delay apparel
purchases. Consumers are also said to be looking to make staples such as razor
blades, laundry detergent and toothpaste last beyond their typical product
“People are squeezing the last bit out of the shampoo. They seem to
be adding more water to really squeeze out the last bit,” said Ali Dibadj,
an analyst who covers consumer products companies for Sanford C. Bernstein.
“Consumers are doing their best to conserve — we’re seeing
it again and again and again.”
The article pondered whether a long-term shift in spending
habits will occur similar the Great Depression, when Americans “held onto
antediluvian dishware and stored canned goods until rust formed on the lids.” But
other retail observers and historians argued that as spending and credit return, “so
will yearnings to favor brands, fashion and novelty over practicality.”
Discussion Questions: What do you think are the most important factors behind consumers postponing purchases? What does this mean for brand marketers and retailers?