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Young adults are no longer the retail industry’s golden ticket, according to WSL/Strategic Retail, a leading research firm specializing in assessing shopper behavior and retail trends.

New research finds that a growing percentage of 18- to 34-year-old consumers do not have enough money to cover their basic needs, with close to a quarter claiming to be in financial turmoil. Compared with people over 35, who were able to launch their careers when economic times were good, this group is a long way from recovery.

The findings, part of WSL’s How America Shops MegaTrends report, Moving On 2012, reveal that the under-34 crowd are not the only ones hurting. A shocking 52 percent of Americans are struggling to afford the necessities, and for many even that is a stretch. The research, based on upwards of 1,900 participants, indicates that it takes a significantly higher income to feel financially secure in this economy, with nearly 30 percent of Americans in the $100-150K income bracket claiming they can only afford the basics. Once considered affluent, six-figure income shoppers are now identifying themselves as middle-income.

“There is a huge fundamental issue when more than half of Americans can only afford basic necessities and people who earn up to $150,000 think they are poor,” says Wendy Liebmann, CEO of WSL Strategic Retail. “Look, American shoppers are moving on and coming back to shopping, but at their own pace. Brands and retailers cannot ignore this. They will need to re-think the way they do business over the next three to five years -- or longer.”

Liebmann notes that shoppers are placing a greater focus on price, with 67 percent of women agreeing that trusted brand names are not worth paying more for.

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