Consumerism Rebounding? But a Different Direction?

There has been much discussion in the media regarding the downturn's longer term impacts on consumerism, a topic I covered in this post.  Essentially, I discussed the changing of consumer habits as the downturn unfolds and what we may come away with as the consumer market as emerges.  Check out this NY Times article on the topic.  The articles conclusion on the impact of this experience on consumers and the changing job of marketers very much agreed with my own.  Looking for evidence of new consumers?

Richard Florida, of Creative Class fame, has written two interesting blog posts (here and here) looking at signs of change in consumers.  He cites a recent Pew Research Center study, which notes changing consumer perceptions towards common household items considered to be part of a core bundle of items consumers could be depended on to purchase. 

For example, the study cites consumers changing regard for microwaves–an item previously considered a necessity and now more a luxury (the product manager for microwaves at XYZ Inc. just tensed up).

Pew-chart

Next, Florida tackles an article in Esquire by Nate Silver, which inquires about the decline of car culture in American society.  Silver ran some statistics, and his words:

To sort this out, I built a regression model that accounts for both
gas prices and the unemployment rate in a given month and attempts to
predict from this data how much the typical American will drive… [The
results of the model are shown for the month of January in each year
since 1980 in the graph above.]…

Americans should have driven
slightly more in January 2009 than they had a year earlier. But
instead, as we’ve described, they drove somewhat less. In fact, they
drove about 8 percent less than the model predicted.

Esq-american-driving-stats-0609-lg

Just as product marketers, economists, and just about everyone, is desperate for signs of the bottom and subsequent upturn, so too Florida and Silver might be stretching for signs of major societal change.  But the data is compelling if not eyebrow raising.