- In the first quarter, shopper and small business confidence was buffeted by choppy economic expectations tied to a lack of trust in government to assist in a meaningful way.
-Shoppers dealt with continued economic and financial insecurity by focusing creatively on elements within their control.
- Shoppers are turning to Walmart to counter food and gasoline price sensitivity.
-Steady improvement in the job market means more jobs for veterans. Additionally, more workers with satisfactory employment lead to increased spending in key categories.
Uneven expectations cause both shoppers and small business owners to look inward for stimulation.
Consumer confidence’s bumpy ride in the first quarter can most be attributed to shoppers’ lack of faith in economic progress and was undoubtedly shaped by perceived Washington gridlock on budgetary issues.
Our survey of both the general population and of Walmart Moms indicates that positive economic expectations were highest in February, following a volatile fourth quarter, and then lowered in both March and April.
Confidence in the government tends to be low, with President Obama’s favorability numbers hovering around 50% and Congressional approval numbers less than 35%. (ShopperDex). Undoubtedly, the on-going fiscal debate in government is a key factor contributing to higher recent levels of consumers indicating that the country has “gone seriously off track.”
While positivity is hard to come by on a macro level, many consumers appear to be attempting to manage items within their personal control. Despite the recent patchiness in overall confidence both the general population and Walmart Moms are trending higher now than one year ago.
Small business owner economic expectations trended in a similar way to consumers—at the highest level in February and then dropping in March and April.
There is a disconnect between the recent surge in financial markets (the Dow and S&P 500 in particular) and small business attitudes and purchasing. Sam’s Club buying patterns by small businesses are fairly consistent during this time, an indication that owners see the path to economic resurgence as somewhat obscured.
Despite the lack of assurances coming from the government or the economy, some small business owners appear to be adjusting their models to better function in this uncertain economic period. A few individual business growth diagnostics have shown slight improvement over the past six months, most notably more SBO’s are indicating they are increasing prices and marketing spending.
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