Back-To-School Shopping

Are your kids or grandkids going back to school – or have they already started? Whether your children are young or not so young, you certainly know that the back-to-school season is one of the busiest times for retailers.

According to the National Retail Federation, families with children in elementary school through high school plan to spend an average $696.70, which is up from $684.79 last year. Overall, spending is expected to total $26.2 billion, down from last year’s $27.5 billion despite the increase in per-household spending.

Meanwhile, according to the NRF, families with college students are expected to spend an average $976.78, which is up from last year’s $942.17. All told, their spending is expected to total $54.5 billion, down from last year’s record $55.3 billion.

As part of our NCPulse program, we posted a video that asked NCP panel members how much they spent or expected to spend on back-to-school shopping. Most of the respondents to our survey said they spent $100 to $200 on school supplies, and some spent up to $500 on supplies and clothing for their children. 

Now, to be specific, the NRF said that clothing and accessories will top K-12 families’ expenses at an average $239.82, followed by electronics such as computers, calculators and phones ($203.44); shoes ($135.96) and supplies such as notebooks, pencils, backpacks and lunch boxes ($117.49). K-12 families plan to do most of their shopping at department stores (53%), discount stores (50%), online (49%), clothing stores (45%) and office supply stores (31%).

Among K-12 shoppers, teens are expected to spend an average $36.71 of their own money, up from $30.88 10 years ago, while pre-teens should spend $26.40, up from $11.94, 10 years ago.

As for college shoppers, the NRF said they plan to spend the most on electronics ($234.69), followed by clothing and accessories ($148.54), dorm and apartment furnishings ($120.19) and food items ($98.72). They plan to do most of their shopping online (45%), followed by department stores (39%), discount stores (36%), college bookstores (32%) and office supply stores (29%).

Remember: If you do any back-to-school shopping, please record these purchases! Many of these items are sold as multipacks. Please refer to the FAQs section on ncponline.com if you have questions about recording multipacks.

Also, be on the lookout for the next NCPulse video – this one is focused on the end of summer and Labor Day.

Speaking of Labor Day, the Panel Support Center will be closed on Monday, September 2.

I hope you have a nice, relaxing weekend.

Best Regards,
Taylor

Summer Reading

I love to read. Summer’s supposed to be the time to slow down and knock off a few good books. But unfortunately, doing a million things at work and at home, it’s hard to find time to read.

But I’ve found a few ways to help me read more. So even though summer is almost over, I’d like to pass along some tips, from the odysseyonline.com:

  • Bring a book wherever you go. If you don’t want to lug around a hardcover book, upload a book on your Smartphone or tablet, if you have either. You can read a few pages here or there, whether you’re waiting in line or during a break.
  • Listen to audiobooks. Even if you don’t have some written material in your hands, listening to audiobooks still counts!
  • Don’t be afraid to put down a book you’re not enjoying. Sometimes you start reading a book, then realize it’s not what you expected. So just put it down and start another one!
  • Join a book club. Interacting with others about a particular book can really get you motivated to read.
  • Set aside a specific time to read every day. Make a commitment to read, whether it’s just for 10 minutes or for an hour. Like anything else, if you schedule the time, you’re more likely to actually do what you wanted to do.

Let us know if you have any reading tips. Or, if you’re reading a really good book this summer!

And if you do buy a book, whether from a physical store or online, please record the purchase.

One last thing: Be on the lookout for another NCP Blog Scavenger Hunt! Details to come very, very soon!

Thanks, and have a great weekend.

Best Regards,
Taylor

How ‘Bout A S’more!

When I think of summer, I think of making – and EATING! – S’mores. I have many wonderful memories of sitting by a campfire or BBQ and toasting – or, more often, burning – the marshmallows, then making the S’more sandwich of graham crackers, a wedge of chocolate, and of course, the now gooey marshmallow. YUM! It was so messy and delicious!

Good news regarding S’mores – Tomorrow, Saturday, August 10, is National S’mores Day!

Bucket of Apples

Tell us how you’ll be celebrating the day in the comments section. Or you can share some S’more memories or even some unique S’more recipes.

Here are some S’more fun facts, from realsimple.com:

  • The first known s’mores recipe was published in the Girl Scouts handbook Tramping and Trailing With the Girl Scouts in 1927. The snack was originally called “some mores.”
  • According to The S’mores Cookbook – and yes, there really is a S’mores Cookbook – Americans buy 90 million pounds of marshmallows every year. It’s estimated that, during the summer, approximately 50% of marshmallows sold are roasted for S’mores.
  • If you don’t have access to an open fire, there are still plenty of ways to make S’mores. The S’mores Cookbook explains how to make the treat on the grill, in the broiler, with a kitchen torch, in a microwave, or over a gas stove, candle, or Sterno.
  • The popularity of the original S’more has inspired American food manufacturers to create other chocolate, marshmallow, and graham cracker treats, including Pop-Tarts, cereal, ice cream, and even Goldfish.
  • Presbyterian minister Sylvester Graham invented the graham cracker in 1829 in Bound Brook, NJ.
  • According to The Hershey Company, the company produces more than 373 million milk chocolate bars each year, enough to make 746 million s’mores.

There are also many different variations that can be used to make S’mores. Just check out the graphic from allrecipes.com:

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I hope you all have a tasty weekend!

Best Regards,
Taylor

Online Sales Of Private Label Products Are Growing

Like many shoppers, I’m always looking for a good deal. And often private-label products (or store brands) are a very good deal. (Private-label products are those manufactured by one company for sale under another company’s brand, and are usually less expensive than a “name” brand.)

Private-label products have always been associated with physical retail stores; in fact, those products account for 17% of total “brick-and-mortar” consumer packaged goods sales.

But now, private-label products are growing in the online world, as sales of these products account for 3% of online dollar sales, up from 1.3% two years ago.

In particular, several private-label product categories, such as aluminum foil, baby wipes, trash bags, paper towels, bath tissues, facial tissues, and disposable diapers, have seen significant online sales growth.

Amazon for one, has many private-label products. My husband purchased Amazon-branded batteries not too long ago.

What about you? Do you purchase private-label products, in either physical retail stores or online? If so, how do you think they compare to name-brand products? Let us know in the comments section.

Thanks, and have a great weekend!

Best Regards,
Taylor

The Most Popular Ice Cream Flavors by State

It’s summer, and that usually means – among other things – hot weather, swimming, being outside, and most importantly, eating ice cream!

Truth is, you can eat ice cream any old time of the year, but for some reason it just seems to go better with the summer season.

As you would expect, different parts of the country enjoy different flavors of ice cream.

WorkWise Software compiled a list (see WorkWise graphics below) using Google Trends to determine which popular ice cream flavors are searched through the United States. While vanilla and chocolate are two of the most-searched ice cream varieties, the most searched variety is actually cookies and cream, which was the top search result in 14 states.

The most popular ice cream flavors list also includes some unique flavors:

  • Connecticut: Beer ice cream
  • Michigan: Superman ice cream, which is a swirl of blue, red, and yellow
  • Ohio: Pumpkin
  • Oregon and Utah: Coconut milk
  • Pennsylvania: Teaberry ice cream, which is pink and tastes like a wintergreen mint
  • Virginia: Tiger Tail, which is orange-flavored ice cream with black licorice swirl
  • Washington D.C.: Stracciatella, which is vanilla with chocolate strips

As for us New Yorkers, we seem to love a good scoop of chocolate chip (which is my personal favorite!)

What is your favorite type of ice cream? Let us know in the comments section.

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And let’s not forget chocolate and vanilla!

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Note: Thanks to WorkWise Software for all the cool graphics!

Thanks, and have a great weekend – and have some ice cream, too!

Best Regards,
Taylor

Beat The Heat

It’s hot out there! Extremely hot weather is hitting much of the country this week, according to the National Weather Service (NWS). Temps are expected to soar across the Central and Eastern United States.

According to the NWS, the heat wave is covering the Central Plains from Eastern Colorado into Kansas, and extending up to the Great Lakes. By Saturday it will cover much of the East Coast from Virginia up through New York City, where temperatures are expected to reach or be close to 100 degrees.

More than 170 million people have been under heat alerts, stretching from New Mexico to New Hampshire, covering nearly 2,000 miles, according to NBC News.

So, now the key question becomes: How do you beat the heat??

Try these common-sense tips, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Medicinenet.com:

  • Stay in an air-conditioned indoor location as much as you can. If you don’t have air-conditioning, arrange to spend at least parts of the day in a shopping mall, public library, movie theater, or other public space that is cool.
  • Fans can help circulate air and make you feel cooler even in an air-conditioned house.
  • Drink plenty of fluids even if you don’t feel thirsty.
  • Fill a spray bottle with water and keep it in the refrigerator for a quick refreshing spray to your face after being outdoors.
  • Keep plastic bottles of water in the freezer; grab one when you’re ready to go outside. As the ice melts, you’ll have a supply of cold water with you.
  • Schedule outdoor activities carefully.
    • Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing and sunscreen.
    • Pace yourself.
  • Take cool showers or baths to cool down.
  • Look for “cooling stations” in your local area.
  • Don’t use the stove or oven to cook—it will make you and your house hotter.

Other things to consider during extreme weather conditions:

  • Check on a friend or neighbor and have someone do the same for you.
  • Never leave children or pets in cars.
  • Check the local news for health and safety updates.

What do you do to stay cool? Let us know by posting a comment!

Remember: If you go to a shopping mall or restaurant and purchase something, use the NCPMobile App or your scanner to let us know about it.

Have a nice weekend, and stay cool!

Best Regards,
Taylor

NCPulse Results

Last week, my colleague Joanna (via video) introduced NCPulse — our fun new (and informal) way of asking you questions about some of today’s topics.

 NCPulse: Your finger on today’s topics

Our first question was about July 4th and what food item just had to be on the table for your BBQ (or if you were attending one, what would you bring).

We received many responses across YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, and here are the results!

  • 14% said hot dogs were a must
  • 8% planned to have hamburgers
  • 8% looked forward to serving some sort of salad, such as potato, pasta or macaroni
  • 6% were serving up ribs
  • 4% were going to have some cut of steak
  • And for those with a sweet tooth, 12% said a delicious dessert was the top item they had to have on the table … including one panel member who said it had to be a “Jimmy Carter Cake.”

We had never heard of that, so we did a little research, and just wow…does that cake sound amazing! Check out the recipe here:
https://www.cooks.com/recipe/nd5z50os/jimmy-carter-cake.html

We’ll share more NCPulse questions very soon…so make sure to look for them!

Have a great weekend.

Best Regards,
Taylor

Happy Fourth Of July!

Can you believe it? On Thursday, America will be celebrating its 243rd birthday. (Time sure does fly!)

My family and I will be celebrating by having some friends over for a BBQ. How will you be celebrating the day/weekend? Will you be seeing a fireworks show, or going to a picnic/BBQ, or going to a beach/pool, or just relaxing at home? Let us know what you’ll be doing!

Here are some interesting facts about the Fourth of July holiday, from Wallethub.com:

  • 61% of Americans own an American flag
  • 26% of Americans will purchase patriotic merchandise for the Fourth of July
  • 61% of Americans will attend a July 4th picnic
  • $6.8 billion is estimated to be spent on July 4th food
  • 150 million hot dogs are consumed each Fourth of July
  • 700 million pounds of chicken are purchased in the week prior to the Fourth of July
  • July 4th is America’s top beer-drinking holiday ($1+ billion estimated spending on beer for Fourth of July celebrations in 2018)
  • 16,000+ fireworks displays are held each July 4th
  • 40% of Americans will attend a July 4th fireworks display
  • 47+ million Americans will travel 50+ miles from home this Fourth of July weekend (compared with 44 million in 2017, and 43 million in 2016).
  • 3.8+ million will travel by plane
  • 85%+ of travelers will drive to their destination

Speaking of traveling this holiday weekend …

Note to scanner households: If you’re traveling and unable to record your purchases, please let us know by contacting the Panel Support Center by phone at 1-800-962-6700 or email support@ncponline.com.

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

And please make sure you record 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!

Best Regards,
Taylor

Buying Local

Decades ago Long Island – my home and the home of NCP – teemed with farms, which supplied a growing New York City with fresh fruits and vegetables and livestock. More recently, suburban sprawl has led to much of the area being filled with homes. However, there are still many family farms within a few minutes’ drive from almost any place on the Island.

There is nothing better than to take a drive out to the eastern part of Long Island and stop at the many roadside stands or farm stands along the way. You can find a wide variety of tasty local crops and goods. (And if you didn’t know, Long Island has a very respectable wine market!)

There are many reasons to buy local, according to the University of Vermont Extension:

  • Locally grown food tastes and looks better. The crops are picked at their peak, and farmstead products are “hand-crafted” for best flavor.
  • Local food is better for you. The shorter the time between the farm and your table, the less likely it is that nutrients will be lost from fresh food.
  • Local food supports local families. The wholesale prices that farmers get for their products are low, often near the cost of production. Local farmers who sell direct to consumers cut out the middleman and get full retail price for their food – which helps farm families stay on the land.
  • Local food keeps taxes down. According to several studies by the American Farmland Trust, farms contribute more in taxes than they require in services, whereas most development contributes less in taxes than the cost of required services.
  • Local food benefits the environment and wildlife. Well-managed farms provide ecosystem services: they conserve fertile soil, protect water sources, and sequester carbon from the atmosphere. The farm environment is a patchwork of fields, meadows, woods, ponds and buildings that provide habitat for wildlife in our communities.

Do you have farmer’s markets near you? And if do, what are your reasons for buying local food?

So which products do consumers really care about buying local? According to The Nielsen Company, produce tops the list, as 58% of consumers state that buying local produce is important to them. The majority of consumers also say local is important when it comes to bakery, eggs, and food service. 

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As for which consumer groups feel strongest about buying local, low-income consumers are more likely to say that buying local is extremely important to them across all products compared with the general population, according to Nielsen. Young families say buying local is extremely important to them for their deli items, bakery, produce, as well as their shelf-stable and frozen goods. And Millennials say local matters most in the frozen department.

ALSO! Please remember if you purchase any fresh produce without a barcode, to make sure and use the appropriate listing in the Barcode Reference Booklet if you use a handheld scanner, or if you have the NCPMobile App, the Non-Barcoded Items listing in the app.

So if you get a chance, visit a local farm stand and enjoy the freshness! Have a great weekend!

Best Regards,
Taylor

Got A Question? Go To The Video

There are videos online for virtually anything you want to do. For example, my son watches videos of basketball tips, my daughter watches makeup videos, and my husband learned how to fix the dishwasher by watching a video.

Did you know that National Consumer Panel has its own YouTube Channel? Check it out at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfrzcrOt-OMNjFi3MOGwGqQ and subscribe today! 

NCP’s YouTube Channel offers tons of great how-to videos. It’s the place to go if you ever have a question about, for example,

  • Scanning items and reporting your shopping trips
  • NCPMobile App’s C-Score
  • Our Spin to Win game
  • Taking surveys
  • How NCP Sweepstakes work
  • Plus many, many, many more!

So if you have a question, or if you’re just curious, check out our videos:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfrzcrOt-OMNjFi3MOGwGqQ

Thanks, and have a great weekend!

Football

Best Regards,
Taylor