Long-Deflated Consumer Confidence Points to a Frugal America

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ABC’s Pollster Gary Langer reports:

An ABC News poll   just over two years ago focused on the “new normal” in consumer behavior and anticipated a phenomenon many retailers now are seeing. As we reported:

“Battered by the worst recession in decades, vast numbers of Americans see lean times ahead for the long term – and plan to recalibrate their lives accordingly. …Those diminished expectations – plus the pain of the current downturn – are fueling retrenchments in consumer behavior that could fundamentally reshape the economy. Majorities in this national survey say they plan in the years ahead to spend less, save more, invest more conservatively and, above all, to cut their credit card debt.”

That was in summer 2009, when the weekly Consumer Comfort Index reached -53 on its scale of -100 to +100, a vast 41 points worse than its generation-long average, with ratings of the national economy, buying climate and personal finances all at or near record lows.

And where’s the Bloomberg CCI  today, 28 months later? Again, -53.

To understand the public’s mood – politically, socially, anyway you slice it – look to this economy.

Part of this protracted lack of confidence can be seen in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal , which reports on what could be a permanent shift by many American consumers toward frugality.

Large retailers, according to the paper, are modifying their marketing and practices to appeal customers who rely on “paycheck spending” – stocking up at the beginning of the month and then coasting to the next pay day.

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