The thrill is gone for many shoppers, but there might be signs of retail life on the horizon.
The recession has reduced the consumer experience to drudgery for many Americans. As part of its monthly American Pulse survey, BIGresearch, a consumer and retail research firm based in Columbus, Ohio, found that 57.2 percent of more than 4,000 people polled this month said they have a “just get it done” attitude (39.6 percent) about shopping or they “dread it entirely” (17.6 percent).
Only 14 percent responded that they “really enjoy shopping and think of it as ‘retail therapy,’” and 28.8 percent said they “look forward to it a little bit.”
Rising unemployment, tight credit, home foreclosures and bankruptcies propelled the change in consumer mood across the income spectrum.
“Everyone is on a budget right now,” said Pam Goodfellow, senior analyst for BIGresearch. “The mentality is that no one wants to spend beyond their means, or beyond whatever is necessary.”
After completing a shopping trip, 23 percent of those surveyed admitted to feeling “relieved,” 43.5 percent were “somewhat satisfied” and 8.2 percent felt “rejuvenated.” But 5.3 percent felt “guilty” and 20 percent said they were “downright depressed.”
“That’s one-in-five shoppers who are completely depressed after a shopping trip,” Goodfellow said. “There might be some guilt attributed to this, partly because of the ongoing fears that people have of losing their jobs. If you don’t have money to spend, it’s hard to enjoy spending when you still have to do it.”
The poll asked respondents to select from among eight product categories — clothing for yourself, clothing for your children, electronics, housewares, furniture, appliances, home decor and toys — one category they could not give up buying.
A total of 38.5 percent said the toughest purchase to do without was clothes for themselves — 40 percent of women and 36.9 percent of men said clothing for themselves was at the top of their priority list. Clothing for children ranked second, with 23.6 percent saying they couldn’t give it up, followed by electronics, 13.8 percent; housewares, 10.3 percent, and toys, 4.3 percent. Appliances, home decor items and furniture rounded out the bottom of the list.
“People are still buying great fashion items,” said Christine Chen, Needham & Co. retail analyst. “For women’s apparel, specifically, the customer is being choosier. They’re aware of price, but if you have to have something, it still gets bought.
“Basics are sitting on shelves because they don’t stand out,” she said. “Retailers need to have stand-outs, and more companies are coming around to this. The consumer already has a closet full of basics. She wants something different that makes her stand out — they still crave that ‘feel-good’ experience. You don’t feel good if you buy a pair of khakis.”
Parents are still buying clothing for children. For example, Target Corp. said for March comparable-store sales in apparel were led by better-than-average performances in the newborn-infant-toddler categories, along with intimate-hosiery-performance apparel.
“Shopping for kids hasn’t slowed because kids will always need a new pair of shoes,” Chen said.
Other upticks in apparel spending include premium denim. “If you amortize the cost of jeans over the number of different times you wear it — people are wearing denim to fancy events now, so the purchase becomes justified,” she said. “You can wear it daytime and night. This is why True Religion is doing well. They’re providing fashion denim that is different from last year. It’s an incentive.”
Last week, top executives from J.C. Penney Co. Inc. said they were sensing an improvement in consumer trends. And Tuesday, the New York-based Conference Board said its Consumer Confidence Index rose to 39.2 in April from 26.5 in March as the short-term outlook got brighter.
Myron E. “Mike” Ullman 3rd, Penney’s chairman and chief executive officer, said last week the retailer has “one of the best women’s apparel trends in the industry,” with dresses a top-performing category.
Chen agreed that dresses continue to be popular. “Every retailer has said dresses continue to sell well. Again, dresses have that ‘multiple-use’ component, like jeans. Buy a fabulous dress, pair it with a sweater during the day, take the sweater off at night — you’re getting multiple use.”
In terms of the consumer mind-set, “It seems as though there has been a sentiment change,” Chen said. “I do think that, recently, there’s more certainty about what’s going to happen. The new administration has plans in place and it’s not this big unknown, and the market is doing better. By no means are people whole again, but…a lot of people have adjusted to the new reality and what you can work with.”
The annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic in Pacific Palisades this weekend drew Kate Hudson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Laura Dern and more. See pictures of the star-studded event on WWD.com. (📷: @chelsealaurenla) #wwdeye
In his new book “Hollywood Royale,” Andy Warhol’s Protégé Matthew Rolston celebrates the Eighties revival of Hollywood glamour. Featuring more than 100 portraits taken by Rolston from 1977 to 1993, the book contains photos of icons like Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and @drewbarrymore, pictured here in 1991. “Hollywood Royale,” out today, will be accompanied by an exhibition opening at Los Angeles’ Fahey/Klein Gallery on March 1. #wwdeye
"Nowadays when life is not so happy with everything going on in the world, I think people come to me for a little bit of whimsy and color and fun." - Designer Rebecca De Ravenel on her cult-favorite jewelry line. (📸 : @vsteves) #wwd40
“Everyone is talking about how the retail industry is struggling, but I think it’s an incredible time because brands who are doing something different and innovative are setting themselves up for the future,” said @adamgoldston, who founded the luxury athletic brand @apl with his brother @ryangoldsten. The Goldston’s are part of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables. See the rest of the list on WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
@eyeswoon blogger Athena Calderone debuted her first-ever cookbook, “Cook Beautiful,” which is heavily centered on the presentation and visual expression of food. Pictured here are her miso glazed carrots from the book. Get the recipe on WWD.com. (📷: @johnny_miller_) #wwdeye
“It’s passion that helps get anybody to a certain point and it’s what’s propelled me,” said Kith founder @ronniefieg, one of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables who are changing the face of retail, fashion and beauty. Fieg, who opened a Manhattan flagship on October 7, began his career at age 13 as a stock boy and salesman for footwear chain David Z. “I think staying true to [my] beliefs, hard work and passion have gotten me to where [Kith] is today.” See the rest of the 40 at WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
25-year-old @samweaving is about to break out this fall, starring in Netflix’s horror film “The Babysitter,” fittingly out today on Friday the 13th. That’s not the only place you’ll be seeing her, though — Weaving’s got a role Showtime’s “SMILF” and another alongside Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Though she’s got a full plate at the moment, there’s one role she’s got her eye on: Marilyn Monroe. “I’m a little too young at the moment, but it’s on my bucket list,” the actress told WWD (📷: @dandoperalski) #wwdeye
BFF's Poppy Jamie and Suki Waterhouse celebrated the launch of their bag line Pop x Suki at Nordstrom last night. "The line is really about our friendship, and how we are so different but complement each other," said Waterhouse. 👯 (📷: Katie Jones) #wwdeye
After designing the new @louisvuitton and @bulgariofficial flagships and a @chanelofficial boutique opening in Japan, @petermarinoarchitect has another project on his plate: The Lobster Club. Located in the Seagram Building, it’s the famed architect’s first restaurant project in New York, serving up modern Japanese brasserie-style cuisine. Bronze hues, bespoke material detailing, blush and chartreuse tones and a heavy emphasis on Picasso can be seen throughout. Mark your calendars for Nov. 1 for the much-anticipated opening. (📷: @clint_spaulding) #wwdeye