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Americans Aren’t Giving Up Small Luxuries [AUDIO]

Whether it’s a $5 cup of coffee or a hair cut and color, many Americans have refused to give up either despite the economy.

Cell Phones
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

That’s according to a recent survey in STORES Magazine conducted by which looked into products and services that consumers believe are “untouchable” and “expendable” over the past five years.

Internet, cable and cell phone services have maintained staying power in recent years while more people were willing to give up high-end jewelry, maid service and club memberships.

“Economic ups and downs have an irrefutable impact on Americans’ spending habits that extends will 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 Media Editor Susan Reda. “The most recent findings suggest that consumers are loosening the grip they’ve had no heir 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.”

When the research first started in 2008, people seemed to be willing to give up just about everything except internet, cable and cell phone service. “Anything that kept us connected was ok and everything else, we thought we could do without,” said Reda. “As the years have progressed, we haven’t seen a tremendous amount of movement from that point of view.”

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%


The survey also found that age played a role in how willing people were to give up certain things. “The 18- to 24-year-olds and the 25- to 40-year-olds were more inclined to say they wouldn’t give up their jeans, while the older crowd didn’t want to give up their routine trip to the beauty salon. Interestingly, we’ve also seen that fast food restaurants and casual sit-down restaurants like Applebees and Panera are still places that people want to visit,” said Reda.

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