Now that we have explored why people buy things they don't need, let us look more closely at exactly what categories of discretionary products they are buying. In 2000, 2001, and 2003, Unity Marketing conducted a nationwide survey of 1,000 U.S. households representing a statistical sample of the country's population, thus providing statistically reliable and projectable information. These surveys were also conducted at the same time in the year, during the third quarter, to provide reliable trend information. But what's really special about this survey data is it provides a snapshot of the consumer market in the last week of August 2001, just about a week before the 9/11 tragedy and resulting consumer turmoil.
A period of two years spans the previous survey and the final survey conducted during the fall of 2003, a period of tremendous political and economic upheaval at home and abroad. These ensuing two years give us some needed distance and perspective with which to evaluate the real impact of September 11 and its aftermath on the consumers' psyche. Personally I believe September 11 will prove to be a defining moment for all Americans alive at the time, but especially among the generation of younger Americans. It will be a turning point in the course of economic and political history in this country and the world. This twenty-first century is a very different kind of world than the post-war years from 1950 to 1999. It is my hope that September 11 and its aftermath will never reach the comparable cost in American lives and resources as World War II. But its impact on the soul of America and Americans, I believe, will be just as profound. Why? It's the CNN effect. World War II was fought at a distance and viewed in carefully edited movie reels of black & white. Soldiers like my father fought and fully experienced that war; everybody else just saw shadows. But we all lived and experienced September 11 together, thanks to 24/7 cable news. It was virtual reality at its most real.
September 11 will prove to be a defining moment for all Americans alive at the time, but especially among the generation of younger Americans.
In this marketing research survey of consumer purchases within 37 different categories of products most people describe as extras and things we simply don't need, we can begin to see and measure how September 11 and its aftermath have influenced and changed the consumer's mind-set and thus their shopping behavior. In the 2003 survey, we added a few additional categories, most notably apparel and clothing as well as window curtains and coverings and musical instruments, that were either intentionally omitted or overlooked in the previous survey. In 2003, we continue to exclude from our discussion discretionary consumables, or food and drink people buy that they don't need, because so much of the food we consume is extra and unnecessary. My apologies in advance to the candy, cookie, cake, and snack producers, as well as the beer, wine, and distilled spirits industry.