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Americans Still Splurging on Small Luxuries, According to STORES Magazine

For Immediate Release
Shari Brown or Kathy Grannis (855) NRF-PRESS
browns@nrf.com or grannisk@nrf.com

complete survey results and read STORES Magazine article.

Americans Still Splurging on Small Luxuries, According to STORES Magazine
-STORES/BIGinsight Survey Reveals Past Five Years of Consumer Spending Priorities-

Washington, February 8, 2013 – 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.

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:
                                                                                2012       2011       2010       2009       2008
Internet service                                                         80.1%     82.3%     81.5%     79.4%     80.9%
Mobile/cell phone service (basic)                                 61.4%     67.2%     64.4%     62.3%     64.1%
Cable/satellite TV (basic)                                            67.0%     59.6%    60.8%     62.6%     60.5%
Discount shopping for apparel                                      41.0%     53.2%    52.2%    49.0%      43.0%
Hair cut/color                                                             40.3%     37.4%    42.1%     36.9%     40.0%

According to the survey, some of the “expendables” for the past five years include:

                                                                                   2012      2011      2010      2009      2008
High-end jewelry                                                           89.1%    92.3%    91.0%      NA          NA
Luxury handbag                                                           88.9%    93.1%    91.3%    93.0%     92.2%
Maid service                                                                 88.7%    93.0%    91.1%    91.9%    90.0%
Club/social memberships                                               88.4%    92.4%    90.3%    88.0%    86.8%
High-end cosmetics                                                       87.9%    92.4%    90.7%    91.8%    90.7%

“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 percent 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:

                                                                                   2012       2011      2010      2009      2008
Daily cup of gourmet coffee                                            28.8%    40.8%    35.6%    38.2%    36.9%
Luxury handbag                                                            24.6%    39.8%    32.5%    34.9%    30.8%
New pair of jeans                                                           45.0%    54.2%    55.0%    55.8%    54.7%
Casual sit down restaurant                                             49.1%    54.5%    57.5%    63.0%    62.1%
Department store shopping for apparel                            39.6%    50.0%    47.4%    50.9%    51.6%
New pair of shoes                                                          43.1%    50.8%    51.5%    53.7%    51.9%

About the Survey

The survey of 8,333 consumers was conducted for STORES Magazine by BIGinsight, December 4-10, 2012. The consumer poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.0 percentage points.

BIGinsight delivers executives timely, consumer-centric insights from multiple sources. As a comprehensive resource of information, BIGinsight represents the voice of the consumer and provides knowledge to marketers regarding consumer views on the economy, personal finance, retail, lifestyle, media and domestic and world issues. www.BIGinsight.com

STORES Media is the publishing group of the National Retail Federation (NRF). Its offerings include STORES Magazine (print, digital and mobile versions), STORES Buying Guides, STORES Show Dailies, STORES.org, STORES Weekly, STORES Knowledge Series and STORES Resource Center.

As the world’s largest retail trade association and the voice of retail worldwide, NRF represents retailers of all types and sizes, including chain restaurants and industry partners, from the United States and more than 45 countries abroad. Retailers operate more than 3.6 million U.S. establishments that support one in four U.S. jobs – 42 million working Americans. Contributing $2.5 trillion to annual GDP, retail is a daily barometer for the nation’s economy. NRF’s Retail Means Jobs campaign emphasizes the economic importance of retail and encourages policymakers to support a Jobs, Innovation and Consumer Value Agenda aimed at boosting economic growth and job creation. www.nrf.com.