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Affluents Buy a Lot, but They Don't Necessarily Buy Fancy

Affluents tend to buy from the same sorts of mass-market retailers that non-affluents patronize

January 19, 2017 | Demographics

Affluents spend more than non-affluents on most things. But you won't find them just at high-end stores.

"If you want to run over an affluent, the parking lot at Costco is an excellent place to do it," says eMarketer analyst Mark Dolliver, whose newest report, "US Affluents 2017: Looking Beyond 'the 1%'," published this week. (eMarketer PRO customers can access the full report here.)

Listen to eMarketer's Mark Dolliver discuss the shopping and media habits of Affluent Americans in the latest episode of the Behind the Numbers podcast.

One can dismiss the notion that affluents constantly make big-ticket purchases. When Simmons asked about the likelihood of making a major purchase in the next 30 days, 70.0% in the $100,000-plus bracket and 67.7% in the $250,000-plus bracket were "not at all" likely to do so. This put them on a par with total respondents, among whom 71.2% said the same.

Amount that US Affluent Internet Users Expect to Spend This Holiday Season, Nov 2016 (% of respondents)

Even holiday shopping does not inspire lavish spending by affluents in general. In a November 2016 poll of US households with investable assets over $1 million conducted by the Sepctrem Group for CNBC, 19% of respondents expected to spend less than $500 on holiday shopping. Another 25% planned on spending between $500 and $1,000.

An Ipsos report tagged Target (where 58% of affluents shop) and The Home Depot (52%) as the retailers most patronized by affluents. A September 2016 YouGov survey found a similar skew in holiday shopping plans among US households in the $150,000-plus bracket, with big-box stores and warehouse clubs (along with the inevitable Amazon) prominent in the mix.

Mass-market retailers' importance for affluents is evident in results of a March 2016 comScore Media Metrix study analyzing visits to top US retail websites. Consumers in $100,000-plus households accounted for at least one-third of visitors to each of the five retailer sites studied, reaching 41.0% for The Home Depot.

Attitudes Toward Digital Shopping Among US Affluent vs. Total Consumers, by Income, Aug 2016 (% of affluents and % of total population)

It is no anomaly that affluents compose an outsized portion of visitors to The Home Depot's site. Home improvement is a major activity for them. When Ipsos asked affluents to identify their chief leisure activities, the top five included doing home repairs (69%), gardening (60%) and home decorating (59%).

Spending on "home and garden" was the second-ranked category (just behind vehicle purchases) when Ipsos examined affluents' spending in multiple categories, accounting for 13% of expenditures. Along the same lines, Synchrony's Yasav said "home improvement is the second largest category where affluents tell us they are planning to increase their spending."

Amazon is another name that arises repeatedly in relation to affluents. Cowen and Company polling in August 2016 identified a majority of US affluent households as Amazon Prime members.

This reflects a broader embrace of digital shopping by affluents. In the Simmons survey, affluents affirmed that usage of the internet as a shopping tool—for learning about products, comparing prices and so on—is rising. The convenience of shopping this way plainly holds strong appeal for affluents.

The importance of convenience was also evident in Synchrony's polling. Forty-nine percent of that survey's mass affluents and 59% of the high-net-worth respondents said they are willing to pay more for convenience. The lure of convenience also puts affluents' mobile devices in play as shopping tools. In the Ipsos survey, 61% of affluents reported buying via smartphone in the previous 12 months; 51% bought via tablet.

The appeal of ecommerce can be especially strong during the holidays, when physical stores are jammed with shoppers. In a November 2016 Ipsos survey about US holiday shopping, affluent respondents planned to do an average of 49% of their purchasing via computer, 5% via smartphone and 4% via tablet.

Get more on this topic with the full eMarketer report, “US Affluents 2017: Looking Beyond 'the 1%'.”

eMarketer releases over 200 analyst reports per year, which are only available to eMarketer PRO customers.

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