How’s Your Back-To-School Shopping Going?

Can you believe that summer is almost over? I just started back-to-school shopping – and my kids are in a state of disbelief. They can’t understand that our schools will be back in session in just a few weeks. I tell them that kids in other parts of the country are already back in school, but that doesn’t seem to make them feel any better. LOL.

The back-to-school shopping season is one of the busiest times for retailers. According to the National Retail Federation, total spending for K-12 and college is expected to reach $75.8 billion this year, up about 11.5% from last year’s $68 billion.

According to the National Retail Federation, households with children in grades K-12 plan to spend an average $673.57 on apparel and accessories, electronics, shoes and school supplies, up from last year’s $630.36, for a total of $27.3 billion. On average, $235.39 will be spent on clothing, $204.06 on electronics, $126.35 on shoes, and $107.76 on school supplies.

Meanwhile, college students and families with children in college plan to spend an average of $888.71, according to the National Retail Federation. On average, electronics spending will be $211.33, apparel and accessories $137.29, dorm furnishings $114.21, food $105.88, personal care items $78.03, shoes $70.39, and school supplies $64.64.

How is your back-to-school shopping going? Let me know!

I will be on vacation next week. We are taking the family to Disney World, so I won’t be posting anything on the blog. But I will have a new posting the following week.

Enjoy the last few weeks of the summer season, and I’ll talk to you soon!

Have a great day!

NCP’s Offsite Meeting News!

I just wanted to let you know the NCP team had an offsite meeting this week.  (We also went to a Mets game on Thursday!) At the meeting we brain-stormed ideas on how to better communicate with you as well as some enhancements we can add to the NCPMobile App.

It was a very productive meeting, and we’re sure it will help make your participation on the panel even better!

If you ever have any ideas you’d like to share, please let me know by going to news@ncppanel.com.

As for the Mets game, well, they lost 9 – 0, so that wasn’t much fun. But it was great hanging out with the NCP staff. We have a great group of people here!

Well, I know it’s very hot in our area; hopefully it’s not too bad where you live.

So stay cool, my friends!

Let The Games Begin!

Today is the first day of the Rio Summer Olympics. I can’t wait to see my favorite sports, gymnastics and swimming. It’s always a treat to see these great athletes in action!

I know many of you will also be watching the games, because they are always a big TV ratings draw. In fact, according to The Nielsen Company, these are the top 10 most watched events in U.S. television history:

  1. London Olympics (2012): 219.4 million
  2. Beijing Olympics (2008): 215 million
  3. Atlanta Olympics (1996): 209 million
  4. Lillehammer Olympics (2004): 203 million
  5. Athens Olympics (2004): 203 million
  6. Seoul Olympics (1988): 194 million
  7. Barcelona Olympics (1992): 192 million
  8. Vancouver Olympics (2010): 190 million
  9. Salt Lake City Olympics (2002): 187 million
  10. Sydney Olympics (2000): 185 million

This year’s Olympics will be hard to miss: I’ve read that the networks and digital platforms of NBCUniversal will broadcast 6,755 hours of Olympic programming. Of that, 2.084 hours will be broadcast on NBC’s various TV networks. NBC itself will broadcast 260.5 hours.

So take some time out of your busy day and make sure to root for the USA!

Have a great day.

Turning Down The Heat

It’s been so hot lately. I’ve been thinking of ways to cool down. For me, there is nothing better than a nice cold glass of iced tea!

Last week we looked at the most popular ice cream flavors that panelists had purchased for the past three months. This week, let’s take a look at iced tea flavors.

Here are the top flavors of iced tea purchased by NCP panelists, for the past three months:

  1. Unflavored
  2. Sweet
  3. Lemon
  4. Peach
  5. Raspberry
  6. Half & Half Tea Lemonade
  7. Citrus
  8. Sorta Sweet
  9. Extra Sweet
  10. Peach Mango
  11. Mixed Berry

After reading that list, I’m feeling cooler already!

How do you stay cool in the heat? Let me know.

Have a great day!

We All Scream For Ice Cream

I love ice cream. I love it in the summer, I love it in the winter. But I do seem to eat more of it in the summer. I guess like a lot of people it brings back fond memories of being a kid, eating an ice cream cone on a hot summer day and having it drip down your hand!

It seems NCP panelists like a variety of different ice cream (and frozen yogurt and sherbet) flavors. We looked at the purchase data that panelists transmitted for the past three months, and here are the top 15 flavors purchased:

  1. Vanilla
  2. Assorted
  3. Vanilla/Chocolate
  4. Chocolate
  5. Butter Pecan
  6. Mint Chocolate Chip
  7. Cookies & Cream
  8. Strawberry
  9. Fudge
  10. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
  11. Neapolitan
  12. Rocky Road
  13. Chocolate Chip
  14. Coffee
  15. Moose Tracks

Full disclosure: My favorite is Mint Chocolate Chip!

This got me thinking about other flavors out there. So I did a quick Internet search and came up with these unusual ice cream flavors (from the cookingchanneltv.com):

  • Curry and Mint Ice Cream
  • Goat Cheese Ice Cream
  • Caramel Balsamic Swirl Ice Cream
  • Pumpkin Stracciatella Gelato
  • Brown Butter Bacon Ice Cream
  • Sweet Corn Ice Cream, Salty Popped Corn and Caramel-Candied Bacon Ice Cream
  • Honey-Rhubarb Ice Cream
  • Olive Oil Gelato
  • Roasted Strawberry and Buttermilk Ice Cream
  • Sour Cream Ice Cream

Yum! And believe it or not, there are dozens of other unusual varieties out there!

Ice Cream Is Big Business
According to The Nielsen Company, the country’s ice cream market has seen continued growth over the past four years. In the 52 weeks ended May 28, 2016, Americans had spent almost $6.5 billion on ice cream. But it’s not just ice cream U.S. consumers are picking up at the grocery store. They’re also buying frozen custard, non-diary ice cream and sorbet.

So you can see how much people love their ice cream.

Enjoy whatever flavor ice cream you like best, but make sure to treat yourself to some soon!

Have a great day.

How Your Data Helps Companies

I’m sure you’ve heard us say how much your opinions count as a member of the National Consumer Panel. Well, I wanted to take this opportunity to share some information from our partners, Nielsen and IRI. They work directly with manufacturers and retailers and know first-hand how important your data is.

According to an Executive Vice-President with Nielsen Data Science, “NCP panel data helps manufacturers understand consumer preferences on specific brands and in turn allows retailers to stock the right item assortment for their local markets.”

Meanwhile, two IRI clients had this to say:

  • “We used the panel data to understand what our customers thought about where we advertise. These insights were very useful as we re-tooled our advertising program to better align with our customers’ needs and expectations.”
  • “We used the panel to understand our consumer and our competitors’ consumers. Who are they demographically and how do they overlap? Understanding why the product matters to the consumer is critical. It is the essence of why your product sells.”

As you can see, the information you provide by scanning ALL of your purchases and taking surveys helps companies make crucial marketing decisions. So thank you for being a panelist and letting us know what you and your household members buy!

Let me know if you have any comments about this information.

Have a great day!

Happy Birthday, America!

On Monday, we celebrate America’s 240th birthday. Independence Day is always a fun day, filled with BBQs and seeing family and friends. I love having a tasty BBQ with my extended family and then going to a local beach where we all enjoy a spectacular fireworks display.

What will you be doing this holiday weekend?

According to the National Retail Federation, an estimated 214 million people plan on celebrating the holiday. Consumers will spend an average of $71.34 per household on food for barbecues and picnics, which is about the same as last year. Total spending on food for this year’s holiday is expected to reach $6.8 billion.

Among the many ways Americans plan to celebrate include the following, according to the National Retail Federation:

  • Cookout/BBQ/picnic: 64.5%
  • Fireworks/community celebration: 42.6%
  • Travel/vacation: 12.7%
  • Will not celebrate: 12.5%
  • Attending a parade: 12.4%
  • Other: 8.5%

Speaking of BBQs and picnics, a whole lot of food will be eaten to celebrate the holiday! According to wallethub.com:

  • 150 million hot dogs are consumed each July Fourth holiday
  • 700 million pounds of chicken are purchased in the week prior to the Fourth of July
  • 190 million pounds of beef are bought in two weeks in advance

The Fourth of July holiday is also a time when many people will hit the road. If you will be traveling and unable to record your purchases and transmit, please let us know! Contact the Panel Support Center by phone (1-800-962-6700) or email them at lmorrison@ncppanel.com. Please be sure to include your nine-digit panelist ID number in the email or have it handy when you call.

You should always let us know if you can’t scan due to vacation, illness, or any other personal reason so you don’t lose out on earning gift points and sweepstakes entries.

If you’re an NCPMobile App user, you can continue to scan while away on vacation.

I also want to reminder you that as we enter the prime grilling season, please make sure you scan all of your BBQ-related purchases! These include such items as charcoal, lighter fluid, condiments, paper products, grilling utensils, and even insect repellent and sunscreen!

Enjoy the holiday!

School’s Out

Well, school’s out for summer! I don’t know about you, but I’ve been hearing the Alice Cooper song everywhere. This song always signifies summer to me.

Anyway, if you have young children, what interesting activities can you do with them over the summer? Here are some cool options, according to thecentsiblelife.com.

  • Visit one park a day
  • Make a treasure hunt: Make a list of things they need to find wherever you are heading. The grocery store can be drawings of their favorite foods, while the park can be things like a bird, a rock, a sandbox, etc.
  • Go on a nature walk
  • Visit your local library
  • Create a mini garden or plant pots for indoors
  • Movie Marathon day
  • Try out new restaurants
  • Ice Cream Day
  • Make an obstacle course
  • Board Game Day
  • Go for a walk and talk photos of interesting things
  • Take out the hose and wash the car, or just play in the sprinklers.
  • Volunteer at local animal shelter, visit a retirement community, or make some artwork for sick kids or the troops.
  • Tour local factories, museums
  • Cook with your kids
  • Exercise together
  • Chalk drawing
  • Make your own videos
  • Create a veggie garden

As you can see, there’s always plenty to do. And before you know it, it’ll be back to school time!

I hope you and your kids enjoy the summer.

Have a great day!

Here’s To Dear Old Dad!

Sunday is Father’s Day, and so I want to give a shout out to my dad and to all the dads out there! (Especially to my husband, the best dad of all!)

My dad lives in Florida so it’s not always easy to see him, but I will be sure to FaceTime him on Sunday (my dad is up-to-date on all the latest technology!). Since I’m not able to take him to a ballgame – always his favorite Father’s Day gift – I made sure to send him something special (we included some things the kids made for him).

Have you purchased anything yet for the fathers in your life? According to the National Retail Federation, consumers are expected to spend an average $125.92 for the holiday, compared with $115.57 in 2015. Total spending is expected to reach $14.3 billion, but this is still well below the estimated spending for Mother’s Day, which was $21.4 billion.

For those celebrating, here are the top Father’s Day gift categories, according to the National Retail Federation:

  • Greeting cards: 64.5%
  • Special outing (dinner or bunch): 47.1%
  • Clothing: 42%
  • Gift certificates/gift cards: 40.7%
  • Books or CDs: 22.9%
  • Consumer electronics/Computer related: 20%
  • Personal Care: 18.4%
  • Sporting goods or leisure items: 15.8%
  • Tools or appliances: 15.7%
  • Home improvement or gardening supplies: 15.5%
  • Automotive accessories: 15.3%

More than half of those celebrating the day plan to buy for their father or stepfather (53%), while others will shop for their husband (28%) or son (9%).

Make sure to wish all the dads in your life a happy Father’s Day!

Have a great day!

Summertime And The Livin’ Is Healthy

It’s almost officially summertime, and that means there are a lot of BBQs and other potentially unhealthy food choices being thrown at you. It’s not easy to avoid all the temptations! (I love BBQ’d ribs slathered with a sugary sauce. And don’t get me started on ice cream!)

So, with that in mind, here are some tips for healthy summer eating, according to womenshealth.gov:

  1. Work more veggies into your diet. The next time you’re making fish, meat, or chicken, sauté some peppers, onion, garlic, and tomatoes to serve as the topping. You’ll be eating a more flavorful, healthy meal!
  2. Avoid overdoing it at summer BBQs. Make sure to eat the healthy stuff first. Fill up on fruits, vegetables, and green salads. Then once you’ve eaten, move! You’ll burn calories when you play with the kids or get everyone together for a game of volleyball, Frisbee, basketball, or tag.
  3. Cook at home. There are a lot of benefits to eating at home. Not only will you save money, but you’ll know exactly what goes into your meal. Plus, cooking at home is generally healthier.
  4. Don’t forget the fruit! Summer is the perfect time for fresh fruit. So add fresh berries to your morning cereal or oatmeal. Eat watermelon or cherries for dessert instead of cookies or ice cream.
  5. Get the most out of your salad. Not all salads are healthy, especially at a restaurant. Salads loaded with dressing, cheese, and fried chicken are also loaded with calories and fat. But healthy salads don’t have to be boring. Pick the ones with a lot of different vegetables for more disease-fighting nutrients. Top it off with a lean protein like grilled chicken, fish, or beans.

Speaking of eating healthier, according to a recent Nielsen survey, 66% of U.S. respondents said they’re eating healthier now than they were two years ago, and 64% are trying to buy healthier foods.

A total of 63%, however, say eating right is a challenge, according to Nielsen. For many consumers, particularly those with “on-the-go” lifestyles, prepackaged salads are a great solution in that they’re a healthy food choice that’s convenient and fast.

While grocers continue to see some sales gains – 1% compared with the previous 52 weeks – from the sale of bulk lettuce, packaged salad kits accounted for $3.7 billion in sales in the 52 weeks ended April 2, 2016, an increase of 8% from the previous year.

Within the product category, complete salad kits are growing the most, generating $950 million in sales in the last year, up a whopping 31% from the previous year. Prepackaged organic salads are growing faster than the average, with a 12% increase in dollar sales over the previous year, according to Nielsen.

Packaged Salad Sales
So this summer, enjoy yourself – but have a nice, healthy salad every so often!

Have a great day!