Those Timeless Women, Spending Cutbacks, Etc.

It’s a miracle they had time to talk with the pollster. A survey conducted on behalf of Dove Chocolate by International Communications Research finds American women terribly short of time for themselves. Thirty-seven percent said they “rarely or never make time to do something special just for themselves,” and the figure rises to 46 percent among those with kids in the household. It’s not that they feel guilty about taking “me time.” A mere 10 percent said they “don’t make more time for themselves because it would be selfish.” Rather, 51 percent said they are too busy to make such time. Among those age 30-41, 72 percent said so.

Hurray: Advertising is not the least-trusted source of information on shopping and products. That distinction belongs to salespeople. In polling for ShopSmart, a new magazine published by Consumers Union, women were asked to pick the source they trust most and the one they trust least for such information. Atop the “trust most” list were friends/family, cited by 45 percent. Also scoring in double digits were online user reviews (13 percent) and news media (11 percent). Seven percent picked advertising, bless ’em. Manufacturer and retailer Web sites had even fewer partisans, and salespeople had scarcely any at all. In the “trust least” vote, salespeople were tops (picked by 39 percent of respondents), though advertising ran a strong second (31 percent). Anyhow, it seems the information source women care most about is the price tag. As you can see from the chart at lower left, price dictates many of women’s shopping choices, though less so in ones where personal chic is involved. One last tidbit from the survey: The number of women who’ve purchased auto repairs in the past three months (28 percent) exceeds the number who’ve bought lingerie (22 percent). In a departure from “Takes” custom, we’ll decline even to speculate about what this might say for modern life.

After all the wailing and gnashing of dentures that marked the confusing sign-up period, old folks who enrolled in the federal government’s new Medicare prescription-drug program are largely satisfied with the benefit so far. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll found 50 percent of enrollees saying they’re “very satisfied” with the coverage under the plan they chose, with another 31 percent “somewhat satisfied.” Asked about their “overall experience” in using their drug plan, 40 percent characterized it as “very positive” and 36 percent as “somewhat positive.” The 17 percent who said they’re paying more for their prescriptions than they did before enrolling are far outnumbered by the 46 percent who said they’re paying less. The vast majority (74 percent) would choose the same plan if they had it to do over again. These mainly favorable judgments come despite the fact that 34 percent of the enrollees have experienced a problem in using the program, including 18 percent who’ve had a “major problem.”

When consumers reduce their spending to compensate for the effects of high gasoline prices, what sort of expenditures get trimmed? In polling by WSL Strategic Retail, fashion accessories, clothing, home decor, electronics and entertainment were high on the roster. Among people adopting gas-price-related austerities, at least 70 percent said they’ve reduced their spending in each of those areas. Somewhat fewer had reined in their outlays for magazines, CDs/DVDs, specialty coffee and fragrances.

Consumer confidence naturally tends to be higher among well-to-do Americans than among their poorer compatriots. But a report from the University of Michigan says gas prices “have driven a wedge” between income groups. “Comparing households in the lower one-third of the income distribution with those in the top third, the difference in the overall measure of consumer sentiment was larger than at any time since the early 1980s.” No wonder mass-market retailers hanker after upmarket customers.