Gimme Shelter

A new study of the consumer mindset finds that Americans are drawing comfort from home and hearth

An average American finds a forgotten $1,000 in an old pair of pants. What does he do with it? According to a survey that market researchers Ipsos-Reid conducted in late October, 2001, the most popular choice would be to make the home homier.

The 1,000 consumers polled were asked to allocate the windfall among several categories of expenditures. On average, this is how the participants saw themselves disposing of the cash:

36% -- home improvements including renovations, furniture or major appliances.

24% -- vacation or leisure travel.

15% -- clothing or other personal items.

15% -- home entertainment equipment, or electronic products such as stereos, televisions, computers, cell phones, or upgrading the equipment they already own.

10% -- local entertainment such as going to restaurants, movies, sporting events or concerts.

"Americans are clearly in the mood for a release from the stress of mourning and uncertainty that has affected them for nearly two months," says Edward Morawski of Ipsos-Reid U.S. Market Research. "Their predominant impulse is...upping their comfort or security quotient. The second most-compelling way to spend such a windfall is on travel, perhaps reflecting a bit of escapism or desire to leave behind, temporarily, everyday life."

The pattern of spending roughly reflects what overall average spending would be in these categories in normal times, according to Ipsos-Reid. So, while the terrorist attacks may have had an effect on whether or not consumers have the money to spend, the study indicates that there has been little change in the underlying impulses driving consumers' preferences.

Other findings in the study include:

-- Few people (15%) have changed Thanksgiving plans as a result of the terrorist attack.

-- Just 15% of Americans are looking for more exciting things to do than staying home.

-- Among those between 18 and 34, normally Ipsos-Reid's most adventurous group, only 27% are looking for more excitement in their lives, and almost half (49%) want to spend more time at home or with family and friends.

-- 42% of all participants do not believe the time is right to hold off on major purchases.

-- 27% said they are unaffected because they have no need to make decisions on major purchases at this time.

By Robin J. Phillips in New York

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