July 17, 2009, 12:00 AM

Consumer confidence may be on the rise, but spending isn’t—yet

Though confidence in the economy is slowly returning, consumers remain cautious in their spending habits and continue to cut out the non-essentials, a new survey finds.

57% of consumers report being in the same or better economic situation as last year; however, they are planning to cut back spending in several merchandise and entertainment categories in the next few months, according to a survey commissioned by Performics and conducted by ROI Research.

The June survey of 300 U.S. consumers who made an online purchase in the past six months showed 69% planned to cut back on dining, 67% on fashion accessories, 65% on shoes, 64% on apparel, and 63% on music downloads or CDs in the next few months.

“This financial meltdown not only made consumers reign in their spending and hunker down to get through this period; it also changed the way consumers will approach spending for many years to come. An increased emphasis on saving and responsible spending is likely here to stay, at least according to respondents,” says Nick Beil, CEO of search marketing firm Performics.

More consumers are optimistic about the economy with 8% fewer respondents citing lack of confidence in the economy as a reason for the cutbacks. 17% gave that reason in April and 9% did so in June.

Meanwhile, the findings also show that consumers head online to bargain hunt, with seven out of 10 respondents saying they search online more often to find better deals.

Until these cautious spending habits change and economic confidence increases, marketers should continue catering to the thriftier, more cautious consumer, Beil says.

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