Pharmacy is one area where financially challenged shoppers don't plan to skimp on spending, according to the latest Empathica Consumer Insights Panel survey.

Empathica Consumer Insights Panel, pharmacy, pharmacy spending, consumer spending, Gary Edwards, state of the economy, near-term financial future, consumers' financial challenges, personal financial situation

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Survey: Consumers see Rx as essential expenditure

February 14th, 2013

TORONTO – Pharmacy is one area where financially challenged shoppers don't plan to skimp on spending, according to the latest Empathica Consumer Insights Panel survey.

The customer experience solution provider said Thursday that when consumers were asked to look at the next three months, gas (35%), pharmacy (22%) and grocery (19%) were the top three categories cited in terms of where they expect to spend more.

By contrast, most consumers aim to reduce spending in the short term on discretionary items.

Of those polled by the Consumer Insights Panel, 62% cited electronics and furnishing as areas where they aim to cut back spending, followed by bars (58%), fine dining (58%), airlines (56%), hotels (55%), department stores (52%), clothing stores (51%), convenience stores (47%), hardware (46%), quick service (38%) and casual dining (36%).

Just 22% of respondents said that they'd rein in their pharmacy spending over the next three months. Only 15% said they'd do so in supermarket/grocery, and 13% indicated that they plan to cut back on outlays for gas.

The panel found that 59% of consumers think economic conditions are more difficult than six months ago.

Still, Empathica noted, more respondents were optimistic (33%) than pessimistic (14%) about their near-term financial future six months down the road.

In tracking consumers' financial challenges, Empathica said there has been a slight decrease from January 2012. Consumer hardship peaked in December 2010, when 65% of consumers reported finding their financial situation more difficult than the prior six months.

"Despite a third of consumers who are optimistic about their personal financial situation, many businesses will continue to feel the impact of cautious consumer spending," Gary Edwards, chief customer officer at Empathica, said in a statement. "Brands should appeal to consumers' sense of optimism and sell them an experience that builds their hope.

"While there is an ongoing temptation to focus solely on price and promotions to drive purchase behavior in a tough economy," he pointed out, "there remains an opportunity to stand out from the competition by creating unique and differentiating customer experiences."

U.S. consumers' chief concerns are the state of the economy and debt. Four out of five respondents indicated that the economy is one of their top three concerns, followed by 66% who cited debt. As a result, consumers remain wary about discretionary spending, with more than three in five cutting expenditures compared with a year ago, according to Empathica.

"Pessimism is at its lowest point in almost two years. We could be at a point where consumers are just accepting of their situation and, regardless, still have to spend money on essentials," Edwards explained. "As we have seen, consumers are still feeling the pinch financially, with the hope that their situations will be better six months from now."

Results from Empathica's Consumer Insights are published quarterly and are based on outbound Internet polls with the Insights Panel, derived from more than 30 million consumer surveys per year. 

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