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Shopping will never be the same

Recession is changing retailers' tactics, but how has it changed consumers'?

By Teresa Mears Jan 26, 2010 2:10PM

For better or for worse, the recession has changed how people shop, at least for now. We’d like to think most of it is for the better, as customers have focused on finding value and living within their means.


Shopping is changing, too.


As retailers prepare themselves for the post-recession era, they are changing the shopping experience in significant ways, USA Today reports.


"Retailers are following through on their strategy to get their houses in order during the recession so they are positioned to be strong players as the recession ends," Dan Butler, vice president of retail operations for the National Retail Federation, told the newspaper.

How will your shopping experience change? USA Today makes these predictions:

  • Expect fewer of each item in the store (companies want to avoid clearance sales), more private-label brands and fewer places to find your favorite brands. For example, Liz Claiborne clothing, once available at many stores, will be sold only at J.C. Penney and on QVC, the newspaper reported.
  • Say goodbye to deep discounting. Instead, look for more scheduled sales and more Wal-Mart-style “everyday low prices.” Companies are using computer software to determine what price points will boost sales without hurting profit margins. "They're taking the art out of retailing and making it more of a science," Jill Puleri, retail chief for IBM Global Business Services, told USA Today. "This (holiday) season was very well-planned, while in the past it was a triage. We'll see this continue."
  • Look for more events and entertainment. "As online sales go up, retailers have to get creative to get people in," Janet Hoffman, retail practice leader for consulting firm Accenture, told the newspaper. "There will be more tastings, more demos and more gimmicks to get them in the door."
  • Expect more green initiatives, such as Wal-Mart’s move toward using fewer plastic bags. Stores will also stock more environmentally friendly products and look for ways to save energy and therefore money. Hold on to your reusable bags. More stores are likely to offer discounts if you bring your own bags and to charge you if you want them to provide bags.

What about consumer attitudes toward shopping? Will the recession bring lasting change? BusinessWeek interviewed two authors who agree that consumer spending will be forever changed but disagree on how.

Lee Eisenberg, author of "Shoptimism: Why the American Consumer Will Keep on Buying No Matter What," says shopping is an optimistic enterprise and we’ll keep doing it.

I don't say that we'll keep on buying the same way. I don't say we'll revert to our old ways. I'm trying to say that where there's a will to shop, there's a way to shop. What we're doing now, generally speaking, at all levels, is figuring out a new way to shop and buy. Which is not to "not shop," but to be far more mindful and more resourceful. If there's a silver lining to this economic debacle, it is that we as a society need to learn how to do that.

Chris Farrell, author of "The New Frugality: How to Consume Less, Save More, and Live Better" and economics editor of public radio's "Marketplace Money," says the Great Recession has made people want to change their habits.

We're going to continue to spend. But we're going to change what we spend on. Recessions accelerate social change. So, a lot of people looked around their apartment or their house and said, "Why do I have all this stuff?" What they're going to end up doing is spending more money on things like yoga, trips, family vacations. We're spending money more on fulfillment, spiritual enhancement, experiences, being with family. Again this reinforces the sort of values that underlie frugality.

What do you think? Have your shopping practices changed for good, or will you be out buying $200 purses again once you can afford it? What sorts of changes would you like to see in the shopping experience?


Related reading:

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