Survey Reveals Consumers' "Untouchable" Products During Recession

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Survey Reveals Consumers' "Untouchable" Products During Recession

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- While the economy is forcing many consumers to make sacrifices in order to save a few bucks, a recent survey conducted by BIGresearch found a handful of must-haves still remain on Americans’ "untouchables" list.

An overwhelming majority believe the Internet (80.9 percent) and cell phone service (64.1 percent) are off-limits. Shoppers said cable television (60.5 percent), discount apparel shopping (43.0 percent), hair cuts/colors (40.0 percent), eating at fast-food restaurants (36.6 percent) and a new pair of shoes (24.0 percent) were also on their lists.

While these items remain off-limits, Americans have been scaling back, with indulgences like facials and fine dining taking a back seat as people try to save money. According to the survey, 92.2 percent of consumers believe luxury handbags are expendable, followed by satellite radio (90.9 percent), specialty apparel shopping (90.7 percent), high-end cosmetics (90.7 percent), maid service (90.0 percent), and facials (89.8 percent).

Differences exist among ages and genders in what people will and will not cut out of their budgets. For example, more women (70.0 percent) vs. men (57.8 percent) find cell phone service untouchable, but more men find fine dining untouchable than women (12.3 percent vs. 9.1 percent), according to the BIGresearch survey.

"Today’s economy has had an impact on every American, and retailers are dealing with very different shoppers than they were one year ago," said Phil Rist, executive vice president of strategic initiatives for BIGresearch. "While many people have opted to trade down, some refuse to sacrifice certain luxuries, cutting items they feel are expendable to compensate."

The survey, conducted for STORES magazine by BIGresearch, was carried out from Dec. 16-18, 2008. The consumer poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.6 percent. BIGresearch is a consumer market intelligence firm.