Now that people are back to pocketing a little extra money, the consumer mindset on spending has shifted and items that get shelved when budgets are tight have changed too.
In its recently released report, “The Post-Recession Consumer: Changing Landscape and Attitudes of Men & Women,” NRF, with support from KPMG, looked at five areas of consumer spending and how male and female attitudes have changed since the recession.
Consumer confidence has been climbing steadily since the 2009 recession, and the report unveils changes in household spending in response.
Clothing is often one of the first discretionary items to be tabled when times are tough, but apparel purchases are slowly trending back to pre-recession states of 30 percent of women delaying clothing buys (vs. recession years’ 35 percent). The share of men who cut back on new clothes has stayed steady at around 20-25 percent since 2009 and there is no sign of a decline, the report noted.
Practical tends to take favor during recessions, but now that things appear to be back on track in terms of the economy, consumers are back to focusing more on style, less on comfort and value.
“The preference for value and comfort over style, while still the top motivator for male consumers, has been on a decline in importance for male consumers across the last 8 years. Whether it’s greater awareness of the fashion scene, or an uptick in the male-focused retail concepts, new trends and styles have become important to increasingly more male consumers,” the report noted.
Women are currently more motivated to buy clothing with a more traditional style or new trends, rather than goods that might offer value but lack style.
In the era of promotions, when consumers are conditioned to expect a deal, 64 percent of women and 61 percent of men said they usually buy clothing when it’s on sale. Twenty-five percent of women and 19 percent of men said they only buy clothing when it’s on sale, and 11 percent of women and 20 percent of men said sales are not important in their clothing purchases.
The NRF report said these shifts in how consumers think about shopping and the value of a good deal is reflected by some of today’s innovative and most successful retail businesses like Trunk Club, where personal shoppers select clothes and send them straight to male customers, Rent the Runway where high-end clothing can be borrowed for a bargain, and naturally, the expansion of fast fashion retailers like Zara, Uniqlo and Joe Fresh that offer style plus value.
“It’s understandable to see a shift in popular shopping destinations as consumer preferences and shopping shift. For example, just five years ago, companies like Amazon.com were not top-of-mind when it came to clothing, H&M was only found in large cities and did not have an online presence, and Whole Foods was not a common neighborhood fixture,” according to the report.
Though omnichannel is an ongoing trend, NRF said consumers have become increasingly certain about the store format they prefer. Pre-recession, about one in four men and one in seven women said they had no preference over platform, and this year, half as many feel that way.
When it comes to where consumers shop most often, discount stores seem to be on the decline with male shoppers, dipping from nearly 30 percent in 2014 to 23 percent, but discount stores are still a top destination for roughly one in four women.
Growth in online shopping is generally on the rise, though it is still not a top player for clothing destinations, the report found. In 2008, 0.05% of men said the web was their top store type shopped, and today that number totals 2 percent. More women are opting for the e-channel, but still only a small number shop that way most often.
Department stores are becoming more popular post-recession with 8 percent more men heading there in the last few years compared to 2009. Thirty-eight percent of women this year said they shop in department stores most often, compared to 34 percent in 2009.
“Marketers have never before had so many mediums for reaching consumers, however with that they are also struggling to get consumers to take notice. Since the recession, consumers have increased their online time spent not only as a source for information but also for shopping, impacting the effectiveness of traditional media,” the report noted.
Newspapers and magazines are not the influencers they once were—five years ago, one in three men said magazines influenced their purchases, and today only 20 percent would say so. Women are slightly more influenced than men by in-store promotions like product displays, free samples and discounts, but with more time spent before a screen, web promotions are on the rise though they still don’t yet have the same level of effect as magazines and newspapers.
“Five years out from the start of the recession, consumers are back to spending – however they’re not the same consumers as they were pre-recession. These days, men and women will spend when, and where, they most feel comfortable separating from their money. When times are tight, what men and women will and will not cut back on has changed, when times are good, where they’re willing to maybe splurge has changed,” the report concluded.