Gas-Pump Predictions, Rich People’s Kids, Etc.

Gender gap of the week: In a Gallup poll fielded in the middle of last month, people were asked whether they think gasoline prices will be higher, lower or about the same by year’s end. A plurality of men (43 percent) said prices will be lower, while 31 percent said they’ll be higher and 24 percent said they’ll be about the same. Among women, a narrow plurality (36 percent) said “higher,” while 34 percent said “lower” and 26 percent “about the same.” Age was another dividing line. Men 55 and older were more than twice as apt to foresee lower prices as higher prices (55 percent vs. 21 percent). Among men age 18-34, “lower” barely beat “higher” (37 percent vs. 36 percent). Women 55-plus were much more likely to anticipate a decline than a rise (41 percent vs. 27 percent). In contrast, women 18-54 were more likely to predict an increase than a decrease (41 percent vs. 31 percent). If the pessimistic consumers are mistaken and the price of gas keep falling during the next few months, they’ll have unexpected amounts of money rattling around in their pockets when the holiday-shopping season peaks. That’s one more reason to take early holiday-sales forecasts (always interesting, not always accurate) with a grain of salt.

The burden of prescription-drug costs is usually discussed as a geezer preoccupation. An AARP survey finds, though, that plenty of pre-geezers are worked up about it as well. The chart below gives the numbers. Since many old folks take multiple prescription drugs on a daily basis, it’s not surprising that they would cite the cost as a problem for them. But the “problem” tally is startlingly high among the younger baby boomers, as if it includes everyone who’s ever had to buy a two-week supply of penicillin for a strep throat. Perhaps Americans are now primed to see themselves as victims of Big Pharma, whatever their real pharmacological circumstances might be.

Being born into a wealthy family confers many advantages on a child. But expensive sneakers isn’t one of them, apparently. A survey conducted for American Express by the American Affluence Research Center looked at the attitudes and habits of wealthy families (average net worth: $4.3 million) in raising their kids. Among the details: These parents spend an average of $53.50 for a pair of kid’s sneakers, “which is above the national average of $33.74 but well below the $100-plus price tag of many popular brand-name sneakers today.” Similarly, the parents spend an average of $42.40 for a pair of kid’s jeans—more than the national average, less than the typical price of designer jeans. Affluent parents seem more comfortable spending money (and telling a pollster about it) on experiences that will help their children become “cultured and well-rounded.” Thus, 41 percent said their kids take music lessons; 55 percent said they attend theater and music performances; 53 percent said their offspring get personal lessons in sports. Travel is another thing parents enjoy lavishing on their children, and 68 percent of the respondents’ kids have ventured abroad before age 17. Of course, it’s scarcely as if well-heeled parents deny their kids the standard possessions that all youngsters covet. One example: 33 percent of their 15-17-year-old children have their own cars.

We know that time-pressed Americans are too busy to do the things they’d like to do. Even if they did have the time, though, a Yankelovich survey (summarized in the company’s Monitor Minute newsletter) suggests they wouldn’t have the energy. Forty-three percent of men and 55 percent of women subscribed to the statement, “I often feel too tired to do the things I want to do.” (And these are the people who had the energy to answer the phone and respond to the pollster’s nosy questions!) The figure for women is skewed upwards by the severe energy deficit among mothers with kids under age 18 in the household: 59 percent of this cohort said they lack the energy to do what they want. To the extent that feeling energetic is a skill, it’s one that many folks lack: Just 38 percent of men and 34 percent of women said they “feel skilled at maintaining a good energy level.”

Amid all the change sweeping through the ad business, it’s comforting to see one constant: It’s still 10:10 in watch ads, as it has been since the dawn of time. Apparently 10:10 is the time that makes a watch face look best (and that best frames the brand’s logo). The ad for Michele watches (above right), created under the lead of in-house art director Lola Garcia, sustains the tradition. Sure, a brand could cut through the category’s clutter by setting an ad’s watch to, say, 4:57. But that would be too upsetting for all concerned, and consumers would surely shun the brand.

The Pope has had a rough couple of weeks since giving a speech to which many Muslims took offense—in some instances, violent offense. He can now draw solace from learning that he has a higher approval rating among Americans than most American political leaders do. In a Rasmussen Reports poll fielded as the controversy was aboil, 54 percent of respondents said they have a favorable impression of Pope Benedict XVI; 22 percent said they view him unfavorably. While 53 percent said it’s important for public figures “to choose their words carefully to avoid giving offense,” this doesn’t void their belief in free speech: 77 percent said free speech is “more important than preventing offensive remarks.”

Who says teenagers disdain the fashion sense of their elders? There’s just a certain time lag involved. As a WSL Strategic Retail poll finds, many teens are glad to buy their elders’ castoff clothes. Asked to list the venues where they bought back-to-school clothing this year, 27 percent of teenagers cited vintage shops/ thrift stores. That exceeds the number who reported back-to-school shopping at dollar stores (20 percent) or via catalogue (19 percent). Girls are more likely than boys to have gone vintage (33 percent vs. 21 percent). The top locations for back-to-school shopping this year were mass merchandisers (78 percent of teens) and department stores (74 percent). Specialty clothing stores were popular with girls (72 percent), but less so with boys (50 percent). Thirty-four percent of girls and 32 percent of boys bought school clothes online.