Americans Continue to Splurge on Small Luxuries Despite Economic Uncertainty

High-​end lipstick and gourmet coffee might not top everyone’s list of “needs,” but for some, these small luxuries are simply untouchable, according to exclusive consumer research in STORES Magazine’s February cover story. The survey, conducted by BIGinsight​.com examines products and services that consumers feel are “untouchable” and “expendable” and tracks the past five years of this sentiment surrounding their purchase. Excited Shopping Woman

The survey found that items and services such as on-​demand video streaming and upgraded mobile devices have in recent years maintained staying power, despite heightened economic uncertainty. On the other hand, as consumers increasingly look for ways to cut back, they are more inclined to give up high-​end jewelry, maid services, and magazine subscriptions.

Economic ups and downs have an irrefutable impact on Americans’ spending habits that extends well beyond gas and groceries and over the past five years many consumers have had to rein in spending as fiscal woes plagued budgets,” said STORES Editor Susan Reda. “The most recent findings suggest that consumers are loosening the grip they’ve had on their wallets – though admittedly just slightly. What’s also evident is that consumers, after several years of practice, are adapting to the ‘new normal’ of an uncertain economy.”

  • Some services and products that have mostly remained “untouchable” over the past five years include:  Internet service, mobile/​cell phone service (basic), cable/​satellite TV (basic), discount shopping for apparel, and hair cut/​color.
  • Likewise, some of the “expendables” for the past five years include: high-​end jewelry, luxury handbags, maid service, club/​social memberships, and high-​end cosmetics.

Traditional discretionary expenditures in recent years have fallen victim to tighter family budgets,” said said BIGinsight Consumer Insights Director Pam Goodfellow. “However, there’s no question that there are still quite a few things that are off limits for the chopping block. While we expect consumers to remain cautious with their spending, it appears that shoppers are also allowing some of those ‘little luxuries’ to creep back into their budgets.”

On average, 53.9% of adults said they cut back on some items and services in 2012, down from more than three-​quarters (76.4%) who said they’d done so in 2011. And, as a possible sign that consumers have adjusted to budgetary constraints, almost every category saw a year-​over-​year decrease in the number of people who plan to cut back on items and services.

[Source:  Survey — STORES Magazine/​National Retail Federation (NRF).  Conducted by BIGinsight.  8 Feb. 2013.  Web.  14 Feb. 2013.]