Consumer Digest: Student Loan Repayments Resume September 2023
Welcome to the September edition of the Consumer Digest, where we aim to provide relevant informative and actionable insights around consumer trends. With student loan repayments set to resume, we are looking at shoppers’ concern level and what adjustments they plan to make to their budget. From there, we’ll look at how consumers plan to protect themselves during cold & flu season. Finally, we’ll wrap up with what shoppers want the future of grocery shopping to look like.
Financial discomfort holding steady in September
Shopper comfort about finances – % of Household Comfort (Monthly)
17% said very comfortable
61% said comfortable
22% said not comfortable
How shoppers respond to inflation
In September, concern over inflation trended flat though fewer shoppers felt the need to offset inflation impact with money-saving tactics like cutting back on non-essentials or choosing less expensive brands compared to previous months.
We’ve noticed a positive shift in levels of financial comfort among shoppers with only 22% claiming they are not comfortable with their finances, which is a 5% decrease from August.
Back to school spending – a “say/do” gap
Feeling the pressure of rising prices, half of shoppers for back-to-school items claimed in early August that they planned to buy fewer school supplies or were going to reuse school supplies from last year.
Are you planning to buy fewer school supplies this year? (Asked in early August) 51% of respondents answered Yes.
Are you likely to reuse most of your school supplies from prior years? (Asked in early August) 52% of respondents answered Yes.
+3% increase in BTS/College food & non-food items vs. last year
Student loan repayments will impact discretionary spend
According to Credit.com, 13% of the US population has some form of student loan debt. 20% of our respondents claim that either themselves or someone in their household have student loan debt.
49% of respondents with student loan debt are extremely concerned with their ability to maintain their monthly budget when student loan forbearance period ends in October. ~70% of these respondents claim they/people in their household have not been making payments during the forbearance period.
When we asked respondents which of the following categories, if any, do they plan to cut back spending due to upcoming student loan payments, they said:
More likely place to cut back
58%: Dining out/Take-out
49%: Outside of home entertainment
44%: Food delivery services
37%: Beauty services
29%: Home improvements
Less likely place to cut back
22%: At home entertainment
18%: Cleaning, beauty, personal care essentials
13%: None of the above
‘Tis the season for Cold & Flu…
Respondents are most likely to say they will wash hands more often, take vitamins and use hand sanitizer to protect themselves during the upcoming cold & flu season.
When asked what preventative measures they are planning to take to help protect themselves and their household, respondents said:
64%: Washing hands more often
56%: Using hand sanitizer
54%: Getting a flu vaccine
44%: Antibacterial cleaning products
43%: Healthy/immunity boosting foods
39%: Annual physical
38%: Getting a COVID vaccine
25%: Wearing a mask
20%: Visiting public places less often
What will consumers stock up on this upcoming Cold & Flu season?
Over 40% said:
Hand Sanitizer/ Soap
Everyday Multi Vitamins
Cough Drops/ Lozenges
OTC Cough Medication
OTC Antihistamines / Allergy
Canned or Boxed Soup
Immunity Products / Vitamins
21% do not plan to stock up
Holiday celebrations abound
33% of shoppers are excited for holidays but indicate mixed feelings about shopping plans.
Store selection: Shoppers will either choose the same grocery store as normal or go to one with steeper discounts.
Price concern: Shoppers are concerned about budgets and may spend less this season; early shopping helps spread out expenses.
Planning ahead: >20% have started planning for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and/or Christmas.
Hispanic Heritage Month
Though only 7% of shoppers celebrate Hispanic Heritage month, shoppers enjoy this cuisine at restaurants, through takeout/ delivery, or at home. When asked about multi-cultural cooking:
44% say their preferred grocery store offers ingredients they need
41% enjoy trying new multi-cultural dishes
26% look for inspiration on social media to cook dishes at home
Shoppers are planning to celebrate Halloween in a traditional way this year. While 34% will not cut back on expenses, 36% will cut back on decorations, 32% on costumes, and 27% on beverages.
When asked how they anticipate members of their household celebrating Halloween this year, respondents said:
59%: Decorate my house
50%: Carve a pumpkin
44%: Stock up on candy for the household
40%: Stock up on candy for trick-or-treaters
40%: Stay home and hand out candy
Grocery shopping in the future – what customers want
With the rise of eCommerce and digital capabilities, shoppers are hungry for new grocery experiences and ways to save. Customers are very interested in new technologies to make shopping easier and more experiential. While shoppers are interested in evolving the grocery shopping experience, the modalities of the future mirror those available today – 71% imagine continuing Pickup, 70% imagine continuing in-store, and 60% imagine continuing delivery (does not add to 100% as shoppers chose multiple modalities).
Which of the below experiences are part of your regular grocery shopping trip today?
63% Use self-checkout
53% Use grocery store apps to find digital coupons
45% Use grocery store apps to find savings
23% Use grocery store apps to find items in-store
23% Use grocery store apps to find items online
92% of Kroger shoppers use coupons for grocery and household items today. When asked if they use paper or digital coupons for groceries & household items, they said:
37% Digital coupons only
8% Paper coupons only
48% Digital and paper coupons
Which of the below grocery shopping experiences would interest you in the future?
38% Smart Carts that calculate cost of groceries in real-time and allow you to skip check-out
33% More taste-testing stations and product demonstrations
25% Digital screens on shelves that display ads, nutrition labels, and pricing/promotions
20% Digital screens on cooler doors that display ads, nutrition labels, and pricing/promotions
15% Text based customer service / smart appliances (responses tied for 5th)
In the future, shoppers would like to save money in new ways. When asked their interest in the following ways to save money, respondents said:
71% Universal coupons to use across retailers
70% Auto-loaded personalized digital coupons
52% Free grocery delivery
50% Personalized paper coupons to pick up in-store
45% Loyalty rewards to lower delivery fees
40% Reusable product containers to save money
38% Reduced threshold for free delivery
In open-ended responses, shoppers were asked to describe grocery shopping ideas they wished existed today. Key themes fall into 3 categories:
Ease & Quality
Better customer experience
More organized stores
Better quality products
Product scanning/spend tracking in real-time
Want to dig deeper?
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SOURCE: 84.51° Real Time Insights, September 2023
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