BOSTON A new consumer study underscored the role affluent consumers play in driving the economy toward recovery.
Consulting firm L.E.K.'s consumer sentiment survey polled 2,000 U.S. households in April and found that more than one-third (39%) of affluent consumers -- those households making more than $150,000 annually -- believed their spending was either not impacted materially by the recession or already has returned to pre-recession spending levels, making them drivers in the economic recovery. The general population is significantly more cautious, with only 12% expecting their personal finances to improve by fall 2010, while 65% don’t anticipate that their finances will rebound significantly for the next 12 to 24 months.
According to the L.E.K. research, the affluent consumer is the only demographic that is spending more today than before the recession, and is the only group planning more purchases (expected 3.5% increase) in the near future. Furthermore, affluent consumers are more likely to purchase organic and natural food, "green" products and selectively splurge on higher-end brands, hence driving those retail categories to grow.
“L.E.K.’s survey findings show that wealthy consumer spending is outpacing the general public significantly and appears to be literally pulling the United States out of its recession,” said Andrew Rees, VP and head of the L.E.K. consulting retail practice. “The distinct affluent demographic underscores why retailers need to truly understand what motivates each customer type. Deep customer segmentation will give retailers the insight to chart a clear course despite hazy market conditions.”