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The economy may be improving, and consumers may be feeling a bit more confident, but that doesn’t mean we’re ready to throw away our coupons and go on a supermarket spending spree. It seems that the search for savings is here to stay.

Deloitte has released its latest annual “American Pantry Study“, which studies shoppers’ behavior. And it finds that the majority of shoppers who rode out the recession by using coupons, shopping the sales and trading down to less-expensive store brands, aren’t going back to their old ways.

94% of the shoppers surveyed agreed with the statement, “even if the economy improves, I will remain cautious and keep my spending at its current level.” And 71% said “even though I’m spending less on products now, it doesn’t feel like I’m sacrificing much.”

That’s because the majority of shoppers have spent the past few years identifying which store brand items they’re satisfied with, which products they can use coupons to buy, and which things they can wait to buy until they’re on sale. “Consumers tend to know when products will be on sale and plan shopping trips to save,” the study notes.

Only 32% of the shoppers surveyed tend to buy essentially whatever they want, whenever they want it, no matter the cost. On the flip side, 19% say they can’t afford to buy many of the products they’d like, so they begrudgingly settle for more inexpensive options.

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The rest of us have figured out a way to maximize our grocery budgets, without feeling like we’re settling for less. But this segment of shoppers is divided into two distinct categories, based on two very different savings strategies.

23% are “Planners” – they “are most focused on resourceful pantry management and planning ahead to maximize their budgets,” often by stocking up and buying in bulk. They’re among those most likely to agree with the statement, “the products I buy are always on sale somewhere I shop, so I don’t worry about using coupons.”

But 26% are described as “Super Savers” – they “enjoy the hunt, and make a concentrated effort to use coupons and visit multiple stores.” They are careful about their coupon use, with most saying “I only use coupons for things I would have purchased anyway.”

Overall, 80% of all shoppers say “it’s fun to see how much money I can save by using coupons or my shopper loyalty card.”

And many think it’s fun to save by buying store brands, too. 88% say they’ve found several store brands that are just as good as national brands. And only a third say they have certain “must have” brands that they’ll buy whether it’s on sale or not.

“While consumers initially resented buying less-expensive products out of necessity a few years ago, they have changed their tune,” said Deloitte vice chairman Pat Conroy. “They have shifted from a feeling of settling for lower-priced brands to settling in to store brands distinguished by high quality.” Favorite store brands that are considered just as good as national brands include things like bottled water, disposable plates, deli meat and condiments. Some store brands don’t make the cut, though – favorite “must have” brand name items include products like soft drinks, coffee, beer and pet food.

Whether it’s by buying in bulk, using coupons, waiting for sales or buying store brands, 91% of shoppers said they have become more resourceful. That may not be good news for manufacturers of high-priced brands, but it’s great news for shoppers’ pocketbooks – no matter how they choose to save.

photo by: rose3694

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