Consumer Reports Survey Finds the American Consumer Is Back and Ready to Spend

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Seven years after the Great Recession, consumers are finally opening their wallets, making long-delayed purchases and undertaking postponed life decisions.

Consumer Reports

November 2014 issue of Consumer Reports

Shoppers may be back, but they’re far from the profligate spenders they used to be. The harsh lessons of the prolonged downturn have had a major impact, perhaps a permanent one

The Great Recession of 2007 caused the once-prolific American shopper to go into a prolonged scrimp mode. Now, some seven years later – and more than 5 years after the recession officially ended – the tide has turned, according to a groundbreaking Consumer Reports study. A nationally representative survey of 1,006 adult Americans conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center revealed that people are now in the market for major purchases like homes, cars, and appliances – and that they plan to spend even more money in the coming year.

The full report, “How America Shops Now,” is the cover story for the November 2014 issue of Consumer Reports magazine and is available on newsstands now and at ConsumerReports.org.

So traumatizing was the Great Recession that many Americans put off purchases and personal decisions such as marriage and divorce. Seven out of 10 people told Consumer Reports that they finally feel fiscally stable enough to make up for lost time. Other findings from the survey that point to shoppers’ improved outlook:

  • 64 percent said that they’d dropped big bucks on a major purchase in the past year
  • 46 percent said they bought a new or used vehicle in the past year or intend to buy one in the coming year
  • 12 percent said they’d bought a residence in the past year or intend to do so in the coming year
  • 34 percent said they recently completed or are ready to do a major home-remodeling project
  • 31 percent are holding fewer garage sales
  • 30 percent are taking fewer odd jobs
  • 26 percent of young Americans (aged 18-34) said they were ready to buy a new home; 32 percent believe they can buy a car

“Shoppers may be back, but they’re far from the profligate spenders they used to be. The harsh lessons of the prolonged downturn have had a major impact, perhaps a permanent one,” said Tod Marks, Senior Projects Editor for Consumer Reports. “Our survey shows that Americans are spending their money very pragmatically, and even though the employment picture has improved, many are working scared – scared about their future job stability and earnings outlook.”

The report also features testimonials from real consumers about their new spending habits. Additional data from CR’s nationally representative survey includes what Americans are most reluctant to cut back on – regardless of the economy – and the pricier items many people feel are still out of reach. The full report is available in the November issue of Consumer Reports magazine, and online at ConsumerReports.org.

Consumer Reports is the world’s largest independent product-testing organization. Using its more than 50 labs, auto test center, and survey research center, the nonprofit rates thousands of products and services annually. Founded in 1936, Consumer Reports has over 8 million subscribers to its magazine, website and other publications. Its advocacy division, Consumers Union, works for health reform, food and product safety, financial reform, and other consumer issues in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace.

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James McQueen
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