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BigResearch: Consumer confidence in January is the highest since April 2010

Columbus, Ohio - Consumer confidence was at its highest in nine months, as almost one third of shoppers surveyed by BigResearch said they are "very confident/confident" about the chances for a strong economy in the New Year.

The consumer research firm surveys more than 8,000 shoppers each month for its Consumer Intentions & Actions Survey.

For this latest survey, conducted Jan. 4 to 11, almost a third, or 32.2%, or respondents said they are very confident/confident, compared to December's 27.3% rate and January 2010's 30.0%.

The highest reading in recent memory was April 2010's 32.9%.

More related findings show that in January, more than a third (35.1%) asserted the economy will rebound to pre-recession prosperity. That's a drop of more than five points from the 40.8% who said the same back in Jan. 2010. One in three (33.7%) said they don't believe the economy will make a full comeback, up from a year ago (30.3%). And nearly as many (31.2%) just aren't sure, increasing slightly in one year's time (29.0%).

"Interestingly, but not surprisingly, the recession had varying effects on consumers, depending on age," BigResearch said.

Those 18-34 are particularly concerned with savings compared to their older peers. The 35-54 age group is concentrating more on budgeting and dining out less, while the chief concerns of those 55-plus revolve around credit card usage.

Post holiday, with credit card bills arriving in mailboxes soon," consumers are also reevaluating what they really need rather than what they want," BigResearch continued. In January, more than half (55.2%) said they are zeroing in on the necessities when shopping, rising from a month ago (52.7%). In terms of practicality, though, consumers are pulling back less so than a year ago (60.2%).

At retail, Home Depot (28.0%) and Lowe's (25.2%) "continue to hammer the competition" in the home improvement/hardware segment, BigResearch said. Walmart (5.2%), Menards (4.0%), and ACE (2.7%) follow in the single digits.

Consumers also seem to be greeting 2011 "with a more upward 90-day outlook compared to Jan. 2010 and Jan. 2009," BigResearch found in its Diffusion Index - whoch evaluates consumers who say they'll spend less subtracted from those who will spend more. With the exception of the seasonal lawn & garden category, all others - including linens/bedding/draperies and home décor -- declined from Dec. 2010, "as shoppers stow their holiday spending mindsets." All categories remain depressed compared to pre-recession Jan. 2007.

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