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New research from The Nielsen Company suggests that “more U.S. consumers are taking steps to compensate for rising gas prices … Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of consumers are reducing their spending, up 18 points since June 2007 and up 14 points in the last six months alone.”

In addition, Nielsen’s research “also finds that more consumers are combining shopping trips (78 percent), and more than half of consumers are now eating out less (52 percent) and staying home more often (51 percent) … Increased fuel prices are leading nearly one-third (32 percent) of consumers to use more coupons as a way to save money, up from 25 percent in December 2007. Seeking to get the bulk of their errands done while using less gas, 28 percent of consumer report doing more of their shopping at supercenters, where more items are in one store.”

Other conclusions:

• Nielsen’s research shows that more consumers (35 percent) are buying less expensive brands, up 12 points since December 2007.

• “Although a small base, Nielsen’s research shows some consumers are shopping online and carpooling or using public transportation more often.”

Todd Hale, senior vice president of consumer and shopper insights at Nielsen Homescan & Spectra, fames the business challenge this way: “Retailers can take a creative approach to promotions, pricing and partnerships, such as aligning themselves with gas retailers to reward loyal customers with less expensive gas, while manufacturers can minimize the impact of high gas prices by targeting products and advertising around at-home or at-work meals and at-home entertaining.”

KC's View:
One thing seems clear – that retailers and manufacturers that do not integrate these new realities into their marketing and product development plans are not just flirting with irrelevance, but embracing it.

And let’s be clear. While the shifts may occur in incremental fashion, they signify a broader transformation that is taking place in the American economy, something that is permanent, not temporary or illusory.