NEW YORK — The experts all have their say, but the bottom line for the bottom line is what consumers think. WWD conducted an exclusive online poll among a sampling of readers of W, a sister publication, to get a handle on the current mind-set.
The survey asked four basic questions: about the economy, what would stimulate them to get into the stores, how much they anticipated spending for the holiday season and what they thought their next big purchase might be.
Conducted over four days last week, the survey netted 169 responses.
Even though many industry observers interviewed by WWD suggested price wasn’t necessarily the way to go to draw customers back into the stores, a staggering 76 percent of the respondents said it was. That’s far more than the next popular response: the need to boost their spirits or feel good, which captured 24 percent. A drop in interest rates only appealed to 4 percent of this crowd, while new fashions or products would attract 10 percent.
(Numbers in the survey do not add up to 100 percent because of rounding, multiple answers or not answering a question.)
The good news for Seventh Avenue is that 53 percent chose clothing as their next purchase over $50, with 37 percent picking an item for the home. Forty percent replied that they’d be spending on travel — perhaps a good omen for bucking up the sagging tourism industry, which is taking a beating in places such as Hawaii and other resort areas, as well as in Manhattan.
Another 30 percent said their next big buy would likely be dining in a restaurant or taking in a show, with beauty products and accessories garnering 18 percent and 14 percent, respectively.
Most — 62 percent — who answered the survey, however, said they felt insecure about the economy in the short term, and 23 percent said they felt it would be insecure for some time to come. Only 13 percent said they thought the economy was secure.
Several New Yorkers talked about what might inspire them to go shopping again, but some said the biggest component in recovery from these unprecedented events will be time.
“Bargains” is what Helen Schifter thinks will make the difference. “That’s all. The whole thing about donating a portion of the store’s profits to charity — people have already given so much. They’ve given blood and bottles of water and have given to the different funds.
“I say slash your prices and call your good customers. Have a shopping evening or a private sale. Open 30 minutes early. I’m waiting for those sticker prices to drop.”
But Jamee Gregory, another devoted shopper, says that a great sale would do little to get her back in the saddle.
“I feel a desire to blend in right now,” says Gregory. “And I don’t think a bargain would make me go anywhere.
“As an American, I believe that you do have to go out and go to things, but you want to go to them quietly. Until people have had the time to heal, they don’t feel like being dazzling. In other words, it’s not about what it costs — it’s about your state of mind. I’ve been saying, I know it must be the end of the world if I don’t feel like shopping.”
“Necessity is the only thing that would get me back in the stores,” says Marjorie Gubelmann. “And to be honest, I don’t think most people I know need anything. It’s just one of those times when people are staying inside. I don’t think we’re going to see ballgowns on women right now. It’s the comeback of the evening suit.”
“I think that for everybody, it’s about finding a balance,” says Blaine Trump, “and I really don’t think people in New York have found a balance yet. You just can’t help but think about memorials, services, what you’ve lost. You can’t think about shopping right now. But it’s like having dinner with your friends — it does make you feel better. Today, I bought some cozy pajamas. And guess what? Soon people will start thinking about Christmas.”

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