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3 Weeks Ago
lucy92's Avatar
Join Date: Sep 2005
Gender: femme
Posts: 12,245
The End of the Impulse Shopper?
The End of the Impulse Shopper

The Web Has Made Consumers More Intentional, Smarter

Elisabeth Hoffman and fiancé Josh Loeser paused by a display of artfully decorated cakes and pastries while shopping recently at a Pick ‘n Save grocery store here. But after a split second of interest, their expressions faded.
“They’re not on the list,” said Ms. Hoffman, a 35-year-old interior designer and remodeler, as they pushed on to pick up chicken breast and diced tomatoes for a chicken chili recipe.
She and Mr. Loeser, a 30-year-old heating and ventilation repairman, have adopted a series of habits to make sure they buy only what they came for. They shop together, for instance, and when possible they avoid grocery carts, which come with the temptation to fill them up.
Retailers wondering what’s gone wrong with their business could learn a lot from the couple—and from other Milwaukee-area families The Wall Street Journal spent time with this fall. Observations of their carefully executed shopping plans identified what may be an endangered species in the retail landscape: the impulse buy.

A new intentionality has taken hold of shopping. Many Americans have the money and the will to spend. But they are time-pressed and deal savvy, visiting stores only when they run out of items like cereal or toilet paper and after doing extensive research on purchases online and with friends. They buy what they came for—and then leave.
Those habits threaten more than just gum sales at checkout. Impulse is why stores offer deep discounts on loss leaders, why they put the milk in the back corner and why marketers spend heavily to pile up products in displays at the ends of the aisles. If shoppers just target the deals and don’t let their eyes wander, long cherished models for boosting sales fall apart.
Store layouts are a known strategy that retailers use to influence how shoppers behave. But can sounds and smells also be used to get you to spend more? Here's #TheShortAnswer.

The shift of attention toward the Web and lingering frugality after the trauma of the financial crisis are the underpinnings of the problem. And the symptoms of the industry’s malaise are clear enough: extended declines in shopper traffic, weak sales growth, and a discount-driven race to the bottom that is sapping pricing power.
Chico’s FAS Inc. says customers are now browsing online first and then coming into stores “on a mission.” Shoppers who once spent two hours at the women’s apparel retailer are down to 45 minutes.
“When you’re online, you lose a lot of the impulse and your units per transaction are less online than they are in a store,” Chico’s Chief Executive David Dyer told analysts in September.
Much of that intentionality has now spread beyond the Web to in-store shopping as well. “Consumers are now conditioned to shop for specific items and it’s not just affecting online consumer psyche but offline consumer psyche as well,” said Joel Bines, a managing director at retail consultancy AlixPartners.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. moved aggressively into the low-margin grocery business in the 1980s hoping it would prove a weekly draw for shoppers who in theory would also pick up more profitable items like clothing and toys. But the formula has come under strain.
Groceries now account for 56% of Wal-Mart’s $279 billion in U.S. sales, and categories like electronics and toys are waning or migrating online. Only once since 2012 has the company reported increased U.S. sales, excluding newly opened or closed stores. Meanwhile, traditional grocers like Kroger Co. are eroding Wal-Mart’s price advantage.
Wal-Mart and other retailers are reacting to shoppers’ extreme planning in a variety of ways. Wal-Mart is trying to pair items that sell well together, like Corona beer and limes. They call it, “Better Together.” It is also investing in e-commerce and smaller stores that cater to more targeted shoppers. At Dollar Tree Inc., each week the chain designates a product like a pen or candy bar as “drive items” that cashiers push at checkout.
“It’s just that one last chance to get another item in their shopping bag,” Dollar Tree CEO Bob Sasser told investors in May.
Adriana Salgado, a 26-year-old Milwaukee native who lives in a townhouse with her older sister, prefers to pick up pens and other supplies for her job running after-school programs at the local Boys & Girls Club at the Dollar Tree—even though her employer has a charge account at Wal-Mart—because she says they are cheaper. After a recent trip, she carefully folded the receipt she would need to get reimbursed for the $11.62 she spent.
She and her friend Paola Felix are just as penny-pinching with purchases for themselves. On a recent evening, as they watched the TV show “Scandal,” they admired the sharp blazer worn by actress Kerry Washington. “Oooh, that jacket is at The Limited!” Ms. Felix exclaimed, before demurring that she’d never buy it because the retailer’s well-advertised “Scandal” collection is too expensive. (The Limited said the line is targeted at a slightly older demographic and that most pieces are priced between $49-$100.)
“Please,” she said. “I shop at H&M and Forever 21. Forty dollars is a splurge for me.” (excerpt from banjo)

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3 Weeks Ago
lucy92's Avatar
Join Date: Sep 2005
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i have noticed over the last couple of years i have made less and less fashion related impulse buys in store. one exception is Zara, where an item may sell out in a week or so or ebay Buy-it-nows.

my mall visits are more like surgical strikes these days. get in and get out.

i spend a lot of time online researching potential items i want to buy. some of it IS a waste of time, do i really need to spend 30 minutes reading reviews/product demos of a maybelline foundation? i found myself doing that this week, somehow because the item was a drugstore item instead of a premium department store brand the research was more important as the product may be a dud. i bought the foundation, but i still felt foolish afterwards.

i also read in the wall street journal that with target's new CEO they had an issue with people buying less impulse items as the stores stock was too bland and indistinguishable from other mass-market stores. they are working to remedy this.

anyone else doing less impulse buys?

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3 Weeks Ago
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Join Date: Feb 2004
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Yes, this all applies to me as well. It started with the "trauma of the financial crisis" as the article puts it. I got into the habit of shutting down impulse buys and with practice it just got easier to walk away from things I don't need.

After a while it became sort of its own reward system, which felt kind of strange since I have always liked spending money when I had it.

I also liken my shopping trips to "surgical strikes", describes it perfectly. It's like you're doing an operation!

I think retailers' attempts to reverse the trend are often backfiring. For instance, I recently was looking at some e-coupons for Walgreen's. I came to the conclusion that the items, after applying the coupon discounts, were still more expensive than the equivalent products I have been buying, or the same products from other retailers. I think a lot of consumers are aware that "sale prices", "economy sizes" and "special deals" are often just the opposite. Retailers don't seem to realize that consumers are are catching on to their tricks.

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3 Weeks Ago
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Join Date: Dec 2005
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great article lucy92 - thanks for posting!

like you, i have greatly reduced my impulse purchases in store for fashion, and like you, the exception is when i am at zara.

if i do go to the mall, it's because the items have already sold out online and my last hope is to find it in the store.

it's rare that i venture into the mall these days but if i do (rare that this happens) and see an item that is not on my mental wish-list, i would walk around the store with the item in my hand until i am ready to leave. i would say 95% of the time, the thrill of purchasing and owning that item vanishes; i put the item back.

Fashion is ephmeral, dangerous, and unfair
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2 Weeks Ago
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Join Date: May 2011
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The recession made "thrifty" cool I had no money before 2007 so I don't know if the financial crisis changed my habits...

These days, I think most shoppers my age google a product before buying it. And who buys something on feelunique without googeling for a discount code, really?

I am still very prone to impulse buys when I am on holiday abroad. Get it now or forever live without it

Still, too many people are getting themselves into serious debdt due to credit cards and impulse buying

Sure. I'm decent.

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2 Weeks Ago
Power to the 99%
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I have always shopped like this I call my shopping expeditions 'military strikes.'

What the Internet has changed for me is it makes it easier to price compare designer items, and get a better price if you know exactly what you want. With currency conversion variations, there's a surprising amount of variation on designer prices out there if you look at different European locations. Farfetch even consolidates the same item from different boutiques in the same listing, so you can easily see who has the best price for your size. Lots of good deals on shipping make it pretty easy to get what you want from wherever.

This past weekend I went shopping locally and sent the personal shopper a list ahead of time. She brought a ton of random **** into the dressing room, but since I don't wear scarves, bracelets, etc. at all, it was easy to sift through the mess. With the exception of one top, which I thought had a pretty remarkable feature, I bought exactly what I came for--and got most of it for 40% off as the sales started.

Then I got online and found the shoes I couldn't get locally in the UK. They had a really crummy picture of the shoe, but I knew exactly what it was, so I was able to get it in my size from Matches, when every retailer in the US is sold out of my relatively common size (as far as I can tell online that is). The Internet makes it possible for me to take advantage of their mistake from thousands of miles away, and at a nice discount too.

Shopstyle is also great for tracking stuff down, and Google is fairly decent too.

There's a need for more individuality today, and my job is to cater to women, not dictate to them.
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