Confidence yields ominous sign for spending outlook

An ominous sign for the consumer outlook emerged in September as confidence to spend over the next 90 days sagged across generations from Millennials to Boomers.

The across-the-board letup runs counter to the recent trend. Since the November elections, at least one generation—primarily Boomers—had always managed gains in confidence to spend.

The measure suggests that shoppers may be less inclined to sustain their spending levels heading toward the December holidays now that they are getting past the back-to-school shopping season.

This also may signal an end to the strong runup in confidence among Boomers since the elections.

Sagging confidence likely will weigh heaviest on brick-and-mortar stores as e-commerce continues to gain shopper preference (see the related report here)—although differences by category remain important:

  • Leisure goods. These goods—including sporting goods, toys, music, and videos—dropped significantly among the spending plans of Boomers and Millennials. The category already had been weak among Millennials, while the Boomer weakness ends a runup since last October.
  • Clothing. The weakness in clothing is focused among older shoppers from Boomers to the Silent Generation. Confidence to spend on clothing held up better among Gen X and Millennial shoppers.
  • Homegoods and electronics. These home-related categories held up best among Boomers and Gen X. Confidence to spend in homegoods and electronics slipped among Millennials and the Silent Generation.
  • Food & grocery vs. health & beauty. These categories were opposites in how they fared among the generations. Confidence to spend among Boomers and Gen X sagged in food and grocery, but held up better in health and beauty. Among Millennials and the Silent Generation, confidence to spend held steady in food and grocery, but slipped in health and beauty.

These are among the takeaways from data through September from the Spending Confidence Index™, which is the proprietary index of consumer sentiment created by MacroSavvy™ based on data from Prosper Insights and Analytics™.

For more background about the Spending Confidence Index™ and its components, the white paper at this link explains why the new index is an improvement over existing measures of confidence.

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