Before the financial crisis hit, consumers used to enjoy shopping for discount bargains at mass merchants like Target and Walmart all across the country. Consistently low prices meant consumers did not even feel like they were splurging on everything from apparel to gardening supplies. But since the recession, consumers appear to be more discerning in how and where they spend their money.


"One broad trend nearly all mass retailers have seen, whether big-box or small-box, is the tendency of lower and lower-middle income consumers to give priority to essential items, and that means consumables," says Greg Jacobson managing editor, Mass Market Retailer magazine. "As a result, whether we're talking about Walmart, Dollar General or Family Dollar, sales of consumables are increasing while areas such as home and apparel are having a hard time keeping up. For those consumers, areas like soft home, apparel and seasonal have become discretionary purchases in many cases."


On average, consumers spend approximately $54 per month on clothing, which is down significantly from $77 in 2008, $63 in 2009, and even $60 in 2010, according to the Cotton Incorporated Lifestyle Monitor Survey. The three year downward trend represents a decline of about 30%.


Shoppers have become committed to spending within their means and lowering their credit card debt. To do this, 56% are cutting back on spending when they shop, and 53% (62% of women) are staying out of stores where they are tempted to overspend, according to Candace Corlett, president, WSL Strategic Retail.


"At the top of the list of stores that are too tempting are the mass merchandisers," Corlett says. "They go when they need to go, but avoid the browsing trips; which is why Walmart trips are down."


In What Type of Store Do You Purchase Most of Your Clothing?

StoreType

2008

2009

2010

2011

Mass Merchants

25%

28%

25%

24%

Chain Stores

23%

23%

23%

24%

Specialty Stores

16%

14%

13%

13%

Department Stores

14%

14%

13%

13%

Off-Price Stores

7%

8%

8%

8%

Internet

4%

5%

5%

6%

Source: Cotton Incorporated Lifestyle Monitor Survey


On average, US consumers spend approximately $54 per month on clothing, which is down significantly from $77 in 2008, $63 in 2009, and even $60 in 2010, according to the Cotton Incorporated Lifestyle Monitor Survey. The three year downward trend represents a decline of about 30%.