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Recession Changes The Way We Shop

The recession has changed the way Americans shop, according to a new survey, which says that nearly three-quarters of consumers see higher prices slowing their spending in the months ahead. Despite widespread sales and coupon offers, only 27% of consumers believe that stores are offering more value for money and over half of those polled say that stores now offer less sales help.

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The survey by financial consultancy Deloitte LLP says 40% of consumers interact with retailers on social networking sites and 37% with smart phones want to use them in stores, but can’t because of connectivity issues. “The recession has redefined the consumer’s relationship with retailers, and social and mobile applications have accelerated this change,” says Alison Paul, leader of Deloitte’s U.S. retail practice.

The reasons for much of this discontent, according to Deloitte’s 2011 Spring Consumer Pulse Survey, is inflation. Around 70% of respondents are worried about energy prices, nearly 50% are concerned about higher medical costs, while 44% of consumers take political unrest overseas into account as a reason to pull back on their spending.

What’s more, the survey concludes that more than 1-in-2 Americans feel that that recession, which technically ended nearly two years ago, isn’t over.

In a separate article on the subject of spending habits, Ann Brenoff, who was laid off two years ago from her syndicated Los Angeles Times column about celebrity real estate, takes it one step further than those interviewed by Deloitte. She believes the recession may ultimately change our relationship to shopping … period.

Since 2009, she has reassessed her own conspicuous consumption, realized that even she could live with less and says she’s a happier person since she lost her job. “Immediate gratification, we’ve discovered, is for those who don’t know any better. I know all this because I’m one of those people who learned these things the hard way,” she says.

“We also learned the difference between wants and needs and realized that shopping as a recreational sport is actually a pretty shallow way to spend the afternoon,” Brenoff adds. “But perhaps most important, we realized we were capable of saving our money for our future.”

How have your shopping habits changed?


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    • 301 Moved Permanently Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your weblog and wanted to say that I have truly enjoyed browsing your blog posts. After all I’ll be subscribing to your rss feed and I hope you write again very soon!

    • I shop just like I used to, EXCEPT that now, the funds to pay for the new items are from selling all the stuff I bought before and ended up not using. It has essentially reorganized my home such that everything in it is something I actually need. I did reinstate an old rule from my college days: Only buy it if you’ve needed it at least five times in the recent past–otherwise, rent, borrow, or do without.

    • 03/14/2011

      Hey! “Entitled Student” Every Library that’s a good library subscribes to the WSJ. Your entitled attitude is the best reason I’ve seen for doubling the estate tax.

    • i don’t think anyone wishes to hear about shopping habits at wal-mart. this is the WSJ, not reader’s digest. The reason they don’t have wal-mart clothes is those brands suck, and really, soda? I would never buy soda more than one at a time. Maybe we have different habits, but for FOR (frame of reference for you non-MBAs which apparently is more than I thought) I went to play ping pong with my friends. One had to wait for 6 minutes before playing and in that time he spent upwards of 80 dollars on goods. that is right, 80 or so dollars in 6 minutes. so let’s keep it reasonable here, do you have any ethical dilemma with commenting on here? where did you read this article, didn’t know the library subscribes to “The Journal”

    • As an unemployed anthropologist, I can’t help my inborn and academic nature. The majority of shoppers at my local Walmart rarely have clothes, (other than under garments), sports equipment, toys, dvd’s, or electronics in their baskets for purchase. I mostly view, ramen noodles, pasta and sauce, peanut butter, the basics.

      The first day of the month is always eye opening at my Walmart though. I see numerous baskets full, of angus beef burgers, lot of chips, boxes of snow crab (unbelievable) oodles of soda, cookies, crackers…etc. (no wonder food

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  • Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to or tweet @SMPayDirt.