IRI Survey Highlights Declines in Shopper Sentiment

Leave it to those millennials to exemplify any news that includes the words “gloom” and “attitude.”

According to a survey released Wednesday by IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm, the sluggish economic growth of 2013 has influenced all age groups to tighten purse strings in 2014. However, despite the widespread frugality, millennials have consistently struggled since the beginning of the economic slump.

“The economy is slowly returning to a healthier state, but the road has been longer and harder than anyone expected, and it has been littered with obstacles,” Susan Viamari, an editor for IRI who follows economic and consumer trends, said in a company release. “As a result, consumers are holding strong to the strategies that saw them through the worst of the downturn.”

The continuing survey, which began in the first quarter of 2011 with a benchmark index score of 100, measures the influence of the economy on consumers and their approach to grocery shopping. An index score of more than 100 reflects “consumers who are less price driven, more loyal to favorite brands and better equipped to maintain their desired lifestyle without changes,” according to the release.

The fourth quarter of 2013 measured at an index score of 102 — a significant drop after a two-year high of 109 in the previous quarter and the first negative quarter of 2013.

Below are a few other numbers from the survey that indicate the difficulty for many consumers to maintain their desired lifestyles.

  • 83 percent of consumers are having difficulty affording their regular groceries
  • 39 percent feel that their financial situation is worse today than one year ago
  • 43 percent say that their financial situation is unchanged compared to one year ago
  • 90 percent are eliminating unnecessary purchases
  • 67 percent are making shopping lists before going to the store

IRI also attributes the declines in shopper confidence to a number of political factors, such as the debt ceiling crisis (73 percent awareness), the rollout of Obamacare (75 percent awareness) and the conflict in Syria (90 percent awareness).

“Our results clearly indicate that 2014 will be yet another challenging year for consumers and [consumer packaged goods] marketers alike,” Viamari said in the release. “But, both parties have demonstrated resilience and the ability to adapt quickly to challenges and opportunities.”