How Seattle spends
This article is excerpted from a Seattle Times white paper. For the full text including graphs, download the white paper.
The Seattle metropolitan area has substantial buying power: Our population spends nearly $85 billion per year on consumer goods, with an average annual spend of nearly $60,000 per household. This puts us 15th among the 50 biggest metropolitan areas in the country for total consumer spending.1
But where does our money go? The most recent data on Seattle expenditures2 reads like a cliché. Not surprisingly, our region spends its money on coffee, pets, technology (especially Internet services), dining out and books. These are all in the top five spending categories for the Seattle-Bellevue-Tacoma Core-Based Statistical Area (CBSA), which covers the Puget Sound, and includes King, Snohomish, Pierce, Thurston, Mason, Island, Skagit and Kitsap counties. We also rank high for alcoholic beverages away from home, college tuition, test preparation/tutoring services and contributions to political organizations.
The Seattle Times research department analyzed several consumer spending studies, including a 2014 Nielsen study comparing Seattle consumer spending with the 50 biggest metropolitan areas, as ranked by households. Here’s how we stack up.
Base population and income
According to a consumer expenditure survey from 2012-2013, The Seattle population earns a reported average of $80,067 per year before taxes. This is more than other major Western cities like Los Angeles, San Diego and Phoenix, and second only to San Francisco, which reports average annual earnings of $92,846.3 Our average annual expenditures ranked second at $63,759, compared to San Francisco’s $70,807. We have the highest percent of homeowners among these cities — 63 percent.
How Seattle spending stacks up
The most recent data available from Nielsen in 2014 ranks the 50 top Core-Based Statistical Areas by consumer expenditures. The Seattle-Bellevue-Tacoma area ranks in the top five for spending on pets, coffee, Internet services, reading materials and food away from home. The chart below illustrates Seattle’s ranking in these top-spending categories, and includes the highest- and lowest-spending CBSAs for comparison.
2014 Seattle spending Comparison
Click on graph to enlarge.
(Nielsen CBSA Rankings, 2014) Seattle= Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue
Coffee buzz … and booze
Ranked America’s Best Coffee City in 2013 by Travel + Leisure magazine readers,4 Seattle’s coffee culture is still brewing strong. In Nielsen’s Seattle-Bellevue-Tacoma CBSA rankings, Seattle ranked third among the nation’s biggest 50 metro areas for amount spent on coffee, second only to San Jose and San Francisco. Alcohol away from home is a higher spend at $195.89, and comes in at number 5 of the top 50.
Seattle goes to the dogs — and cats
A 2013 article in The Seattle Times showed that Seattleites have more dogs than children — and more cats than dogs. We are, in fact, the 6th top cat metro (yes, there is such a thing, studied by the Media Audit) in the country. And we’re not afraid to spend big on our furry family members — $1,379 per household each year.
Seattle is the only U.S. city to make UBM’s Future Cities’ list of the 10 Greatest Internet Cities in the World, which includes heavy-hitters like Tokyo and Hong Kong. We’re wired on more than caffeine — our annual average household spending on Internet services ($244.38) is the third-highest in the country and our average metropolitan area household spends $686.93 on software and computer accessories each year.
We’re book smart
Seattle and San Francisco consumers spend one and a half times the national average on books. In 2014, Seattleites ranked fifth in the country for purchases of reading materials, with $625.93 as the average spend per household per year. No wonder Seattle is consistently ranked as one of America’s most-literate cities — runner-up four years in a row to Washington, D.C.
Food, glorious food
It’s no secret that Seattle is a foodie town, and it’s not just the tourists keeping our local restaurant scene going. The average Seattle metropolitan area household spends $3,845.19 on food away from home each year — ranking fifth among the biggest 50 cities, just behind San Francisco, Washington DC and Boston. (We rank 8th for food at home.)
Hey, big spender
The Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue region spends big for its size, and in all the key categories you’d expect from the home of Microsoft and Starbucks. We’re an economic powerhouse that continues to grow — in size, in tech sector growth, in income, and in disproportionately high consumer spending in the areas the Pacific Northwest values.
To learn more about where we spend, and how much, download the complete white paper, including graphs. Contact us to learn how The Seattle Times’ media experts can help you reach your target audience.
1Nielsen CBSA Rankings, 2014
2Nielsen CBSA Rankings, 2014
3Consumer Expenditure Survey, 2012-13
5Nielsen CBSA Rankings, 2014
6The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditure Survey 2007-2012 (as cited in The New York Times at http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/14/opinion/sunday/what-people-buy-where.html?module=Search&mabReward=relbias%3Aw&_r=1)
7Nielsen CBSA Rankings, 2014
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