CHICAGO – More consumers are splurging as they become cautiously optimistic about their financial situation, according to a MarketPulse survey released July 28 by Information Resources Inc., a Chicago-based market research firm.

The survey showed 22 percent of respondents were splurging on premium or gourmet products in the second quarter of 2014, which was up from 19 percent in the second quarter of 2011. Forty-three per cent of consumers were buying more private-label than previously bought, which was down from 47 percent. The same percentage, 31 percent, were treating themselves to small indulgences to ease stress as they were in 2011.

Other factors in the survey included cutting back on non-essential items, which was 51 percent in 2014 as compared to 60 percent in 2011; trying new brands priced below regular brands, 39 percent as compared to 46 percent; giving up some favorite brands, 31 percent as compared to 39 percent; buying fewer healthier products because they are more expensive, 28 percent as compared to 31 percent; and purchasing only preferred brands, though others are less expensive, 15 percent as compared to 12 percent.

“A critical takeaway from our latest MarketPulse survey is that, while optimism is emerging, consumers’ continued commitment to find maximum value is as strong as ever,” said Susan Viamari, editor of Thought Leadership for IRI. “One-third of consumers tell us that they will continue to shop multiple stores to find the lowest prices.”

Consumer confidence was relatively flat in the second quarter of 2014 after increasing in the first quarter, according to the survey.

“Even though the economy is gradually rebounding, consumers are cautiously optimistic about their financial health,” Viamari said. “We are seeing the ranks of those consumers who are experiencing and even expecting economic improvement slowly beginning to rise. Of particular note are millennials, who have suffered more and longer than others, and are reporting that they have been feeling more comfortable for the last two quarters. Time will tell, but, for now, this indicates that the stabilization of the economy is reaching a bit deeper across consumer segments.”