According to Gallup: Americans’ careful spending habits characterize an economy still struggling to get on its feet and households continuing to find ways to pinch pennies to make ends meet. The poll results underscore the tension between doing what is right for the larger economy — spending more — and doing what is right for one’s personal economy — spending responsibly and reducing expenses. Using coupons, price shopping, buying store brands or generics, and sticking to a budget are some of the ways Americans are trying to do more with less. A majority of consumers are using coupons when they shop, suggesting that coupon use, as well as other ways of obtaining price discounts, is firmly entrenched in the American consumer’s mindset.
Discounting has become so ubiquitous that it is possible that consumers will avoid retailers who do not discount. While Americans are spending more on household essentials, they have less available to spend on discretionary items, such as leisure activities, travel, dining out, and consumer electronics. Even more to the point, American consumers are foregoing major purchases and rarely shopping for fun. It is likely that a more robust economy will see the return of the joy of shopping, but, paradoxically, the joy of shopping for fun, making major purchases, and spending on discretionary items is what fuels economic growth.
There are marketers who continue to rely on the headline numbers without acknowledging the fact that the economy and consumers are still on very thin ice. Consumers are not giving into “wants” because they understand that the days of job growth, with great salaries, are still a long way off. In addition the continued political climate in Washington DC has left them with a belief that they can only count on themselves to move forward and enjoy a quality of life that seems distant.