What We’ll Do After the Recession

Even as companies struggle to survive the recession, the more forward-looking know they must think ahead to the days when the economy recovers. Having gone through what for most of them is the worst downturn of their lives, how will consumers behave in the post-recession era? In a survey covering more than four dozen countries, Nielsen (AdweekMedia’s parent company) quizzed respondents on how they’ve been economizing and what they’re likely to continue doing.

Lots of consumers have been paring expenditures in lots of ways, of course, but the polling indicates some of these austerities will have more staying power than others. Asked to specify the money-saving actions they’d taken as of April, 56 percent said they’d been spending less on clothes. But just 22 percent said they would continue doing so once the economy picks up. The pattern was similar when it comes to cutting spending on out-of-home entertainment: 53 percent said they’d done so, but just 20 percent said they’d keep doing this in better times. Likewise, while 41 percent said they’d switched to cheaper grocery brands, 21 percent said they’d do so after the economy improves.

When it comes to cutting out their annual vacation, 23 percent said they’d done this, vs. just 7 percent saying they’d do so post-recession. By contrast, there was much less of a gap between the 51 percent who said they’d been trying to save money on gas and electricity and the 41 percent saying they’d continue to do this even after the economy improves.

In general, people expect to ease up on their economizing in areas where it’s more fun to spend money, and to continue their penny-pinching in areas where spending isn’t much fun anyhow. For all the change it has wrought, evidently the recession has not transformed human nature.