In a Tough Economy, Old Stigmas Fall Away
In a bad economy, old stigmas no longer apply; Americans less shy about layaway and off-brands
The Associated Press
Post a Comment By ANNE D'INNOCENZIO and RACHEL BECK AP Business Writers
(AP)The Goodwill store in this middle-class New York suburb is buzzing on a recent weekend afternoon. A steady flow of shoppers comb through racks filled with second-hand clothes, shoes, blankets and dishes.
A few years ago, opening a Goodwill store here wouldn't have made sense. Paramus is one of the biggest ZIP codes in the country for retail sales. Shoppers have their pick of hundreds of respected names like Macy's and Lord &Taylor along this busy highway strip.
But in the wake of the Great Recession, the stigma attached to certain consumer behavior has fallen away. What some people once thought of as lowbrow, they now accept - even consider a frugal badge of honor.
EDITOR'S NOTE - The Great Recession has been over for nearly a year and a half, and the economy is slowly growing again. But many of the drastic changes that Americans made in how they spend money have endured - and may be here to stay, some economists think. In a three-part series, The Associated Press examines the state of the American consumer.
And it's not just about Goodwill. Americans, even those with jobs, are shopping for brands, buying at stores and eating at restaurants that they shunned before because they are trying to get more for their money.
At the supermarket, shoppers are buying more store-labeled products, like no-name detergents and cereal, and not returning to national brands.
And in a telling trend, Americans are turning to layaway more often when they buy expensive items such as engagement rings and iPads. The wealthy are also using layaway more often, a drastic change from the past.
"The old stigmas are the new realities," says Emanuel Weintraub, a New York-based retail consultant. "Now, people don't have a problem saying, 'I can't afford it.' It's a sign of strength."
At the Goodwill in Paramus, even financially secure shoppers are showing up. One is Heather Dzielinski, from nearby Ramsey, N.J., who had donated things to Goodwill but never shopped at one of its stores until the Paramus location opened in July.