As the Economy Turns

Gas stations among industries least affected by spending cutbacks

ALPHARETTA, Ga. -- A survey of more than 7,200 American consumers indicates that women are more frugal in a down economy. Empathica Inc. said earlier this month that while overall spending was down, with only 5% of survey participants spending more in 2009 compared to 2008, results showed that women (72%) moderately to significantly cut spending to a greater extent than men (62%).

Out of 15 industry sectors, only four were unaffected by gender differences, said the provider of customer experience management (CEM) solutions to major brands, noting that similar levels of [image-nocss] reduced spending at gas stations, bars, hotels and airlines.

Restaurants, specifically, were largely impacted by gender differences. During 2009, only one in 10 men indicated they never eat out at restaurants, compared to one in five women who say they never eat out.

"When examining consumer spending during hard economic times, retailers would be smart to note that women and men not only spend differently, but have different motivations for spending," said Dr. Gary Edwards, executive vice president of client services with Empathica. "Retailers need to know their customers and how to best entice them with offers. For example, our survey indicates that women are most motivated to try a new restaurant if they have a coupon."

The Empathica Consumer Insights survey indicated that a coupon would entice 48.3% of women to try a new restaurant while fewer men, 39.8%, would be influenced by this offer.

While women are more likely to use coupons in order to try a new restaurant, they are also slightly more forgiving of a bad restaurant experience at a familiar establishment; 8% of men cited a negative experience at a familiar restaurant as their top reason to try a new restaurant, yet only 4% of women cited the same reason.

"Knowing the demographics of your top promoters, and your top detractors, can be key in establishing a better customer experience, and ultimately catering to what the customer desires from your business," added Edwards.

Regionally, in respect to the U.S. Census divisions, consumers in the West indicated a more significant financial impact as a result of economic conditions.

Percentage of those who reduced spending in 2009 compared to 2008: In the Midwest, 65%. In the Northeast, 65%. In the South, 68%. In the West, 70%. "Consumers in the West appear to be finding it more difficult to cope in this economy," said Edwards. "Our survey results showed that this region's respondents appear to be more financially strapped, more keen on reducing their spending and have an overall more pessimistic view of the future."

Though they indicate 2009 has been rough compared to 2008, those in the West are increasing their spending at casual dining restaurants (6.1%) more than any other regionMidwest (3.1%), Northeast (3.4%), South (4.3%)and cutting back with pharmaceutical purchases.

Percentage of those who said they spent less on pharmacy in 2009: In the Midwest, 18.8%. In the Northeast, 19.0%. In the South, 19.0%. In the West, 23.2%. The overall sectors most impacted by a reduction in spending were hotels, bars, airlines, dining establishments, electronics stores and furniture stores. Pharmacy, supermarkets, gas stations and other staple goods and services were least affected by those who cut back on spending.

The top concerns from consumers who reduced their spending in 2009, in order: Debt. Job Security. Health. Economy. Of those surveyed, 57% were optimistic about the economy, with one in three indicating they anticipate their financial situation will be somewhat to much better in the next six months.