Here’s a thought that could make marketers miserable: Maybe discretionary spending does not make consumers happy.
Ignoring economists’ declaration that the recession officially ended two years ago, Americans have continued to keep their discretionary spending — i.e., the fun kind of spending — in check. A new Harris Poll (fielded in May) found 61 percent of respondents saying it’s likely they’ll reduce their outlays on eating out in restaurants during the next six months. That’s nearly unchanged from the 63 percent saying the same thing when Harris queried them on this topic in January. Fifty-nine percent in the new poll said it’s likely they’ll reduce their expenditures on entertainment (as did 59 percent in the January sounding). Fewer than three in 10 (28 percent) in the new poll termed it likely they’ll “have more money to spend the way you want,” down a hair from the 30 percent saying so in January. Moreover, the numbers on these questions have improved just slightly since November 2008, when the near-meltdown of the global economy was vivid in people’s minds.
So, with people spending less on things they enjoy in life, one might reasonably expect them to be enjoying life less. But there’s no sign of [...]