Americans have cried wolf for the past couple of years, claiming that high gas prices were forcing strict austerity in their other expenditures. Empirical data has cast doubt on such claims, as consumer spending has kept rising in nearly any category you can think of. At some point, though, energy prices really could compel sharp cuts in other outlays, and current signs at the gas station make you wonder if that point has arrived. The chart, excerpting an ACNielsen poll, shows how people now claim to be coping. As you’d expect, a breakdown by income found poorer respondents the most likely to be cutting back. Still, 23 percent of those classified as “affluent” and 31 percent of those “living comfortably” said they’re eating out less. Nine percent of both groups are shopping more at warehouse stores where they can get everything in one stop. Seven percent of the affluent said they’re shopping more online. Twenty percent of those living comfortably said they’re using coupons more often, as are 14 percent of the affluent. Taking advantage of their roomy kitchens, 7 percent of the affluent and 9 percent of the comfortable said they’re buying the economy size of grocery items. Honk if your SUV is full of mega-boxes of bargain corn flakes!
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