Consumer optimism at all time high

Experian Marketing Services Consumer Expectation Index shows positive outlook for 2012 holiday season

Today we released the newest Experian Marketing Services’ Consumer Expectation Index (CEI) analysis of the first half of 2012. As noted in the release, during the first six months of 2012 we reported that consumer optimism has reached an all-time high over the last four years, beating 2008 by 8 index points.

The CEI provides us with unprecedented insight into our economic outlook by who we are; men versus woman, age, household income and employment status, to name a few of the 60,000 variables that we have access to.

What’s most striking about today’s release is that optimism is up across the board among men and woman and all age groups; even the unemployed increased their economic outlook from an index of 87.6 to 88.0 from the first half of 2011 to the same period this year.

As we approach the holiday season, the latest CEI figures indicate a strong seasonal performance for retailers. The CEI figure for the week of Sept. 3, 2012, (the most recent single week for which data is available) was 7.4 points higher than it was at the same point last year and higher than it has been heading into the holiday season since 2008.

This holiday season also could be very good for brands and retailers with big-ticket items to sell

Further, key consumer groups are even more optimistic. On Sept. 3, the CEI of those adults who made an online purchase in the past year was 2 percent higher than the national average and 8.1 points higher than the CEI recorded for online shoppers at this time during 2011. This holiday season also could be very good for brands and retailers with big-ticket items to sell, since the CEI among adults planning to make a big-ticket purchase hit 117.9 the week of Sept. 3, 2012, compared with 103.5 the same week in 2011 and 100.5 in 2010. In fact, a CEI above 100 indicates that consumers are more confident than they were during the base line period, which was the first half of 2004, years before the recession began.

Perhaps it’s all the talk of the looming fiscal cliff that makes today’s release appear to be counter-intuitive. In fact searches for “fiscal cliff” increased over ten-fold comparing last week to the week ending November 3rd.

However, if we look for what people were searching for using search term variations, the top searches were “what is the fiscal cliff” and “fiscal cliff definition,” showing that consumers are still learning what the fiscal cliff is and what it means for them.

Hitwise “Fiscal Cliff” Search Term Variations


Search Term

Percent Volume


fiscal cliff



what is the fiscal cliff



fiscal cliff definition



fiscal cliff 2013



obama fiscal cliff



what is a fiscal cliff



the fiscal cliff



what is fiscal cliff



fiscal cliff looms



fiscal cliff defined


Note – data is for the 4 Weeks Ending November 10, 2012
Source: Experian Marketing Services

As the population becomes more educated on the looming crisis, we’ll keep tabs on any resulting changes to consumer optimism, specifically which demographics are most concerned.

Learn more about the CEI here.