Foodservice Equipment Reports

Consumers Appear To Shrug Off Brutal Winter

Maybe the heating bills haven’t shown up yet, but the severe winter weather in many parts of the country and a couple of weak jobs growth reports don’t seem to be dampening consumer confidence very much, if at all. The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index actually ticked up slightly to 81.6 in the final February reading, up from 81.2 in January. The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index did retreat somewhat to 78.1 from 79.4 in January on consumer worries about the short-term outlook, but the research group also noted its Current Situation Index continued to improve.

Under a headline of “Winter Freezes Confidence in Place,” Richard Curtin, chief economist for UM’s Surveys of Consumers, said, “Consumers have displayed remarkable resilience in the face of the polar vortex as well as higher utility bills and minimal employment gains.”

The rebound of the stock markets has boosted confidence and spending among wealthier households, but the report also noted that for the first time since the recession began, consumers under age 35 “finally expect their situation to improve.” Per capita restaurant visits by 18- to 34-year-olds—traditionally the heaviest users of foodservice—have plunged significantly since 2008, according to CREST data from The NPD Group. That they are finally reporting improvements in income and employment bode well for operators, particularly in quick service and fast casual.

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