Today’s Consumers Seen as Optimistic,
CHICAGO The nation’s consumers may feel frightened, anxious and
uncertain over world events, but a sense of optimism and resilience
permeates American thinking. While most people still feel in
control of their life, home and family are clearly “center stage”
in America right now, an expert on consumer attitudes and behavior
said last month.
According to leading consumer researcher Barbara Caplan, consumers
have “reaffirmed their priorities” after Sept. 11 and those
priorities “are home and family.”
Caplan, a partner in the Norwalk, CT-based Yankelovich Partners,
Inc., addressed manufacturers at last month’s Kitchen/Bath Industry
Show (K/BIS) in Chicago. The gathering was sponsored by Better
Homes & Gardens magazine.
“The country is different now than it was before Sept. 11, but
it’s not as different as many pundits would have us believe,” said
Caplan, whose company is considered the nation’s leading consumer
To Caplan, the way American consumers are behaving and spending
their money now “goes beyond” the events of Sept. 11, which she
believes had a tremendous emotional impact.
“Consumers are resilient and optimistic,” Caplan added, “and
neither their core values nor their day-to-day personal lives have
undergone significant change.”
“Sept. 11 did not change consumers’ priorities, but it did give
them ‘permission’ to tackle priorities that were already changing
and being re-evaluated,” Caplan noted.
The home has also become more than a cocoon, Caplan observed.
“It has far greater meaning now,” she said. “It’s a place where
people seek comfort and intimacy, where they relax and unwind,
where they prefer to spend their leisure time.”
There is also a desire of consumers “to score a virtual bullseye
with each decision that is made regarding their purchases and their
experiences,” Caplan said. “Consumers will be more exacting
regarding their purchases. Essential promises must be
Consumers are also “cutting to the core,” and focusing on “what
really means a lot,” Caplan commented, noting that many people are
considering slowing down the pace of their life.
Caplan had this advice for kitchen and bath product
- Leverage the core values “the magic” of home and family, in
your products, marketing and communications.
- Recognize that consumers, wary of making purchasing mistakes,
are relying more than ever on “known and trusted brands.”
- Note the role of leisure “as more than just free time.”
- Recognize that consumers are seeking authenticity and quality.
“What people want,” Caplan said, “is the real thing. Say it the way
it is, and it becomes authentic.”
- Understand that service is “at the heart of the affluent
attitude,” according to Caplan. “Provide venues for customers to
complain to you, not about you,” she advised.
- Focus more on “non-traditional” markets, Caplan said, noting
that traditional households (married couples with children under 18
living at home) make up only some 24% of all U.S. households yet
that group is the one most kitchen/ bath messages are aimed at.
Also, products, services and marketing messages should be aimed
toward the 55-64-year-old age group, “because they’re the ones with
the money,” Caplan said.
- The nation’s growing number of diverse ethnic groups “will not
eventually blend into the shrinking mainstream,” Caplan said. To
the contrary, minority groups want to retain their traditions and
lifestyles, and kitchen/bath product marketers should learn to
reach these emerging groups with their message.