Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Recession ushers in era of the savvy shopper, but will it last?

August 27, 2009

SAFRICA-INFLATIONThe indicators are there: people are saving more and they’re spending less.  The era of the savvy(er) shopper has officially arrived. But how long will it last?

Family financial guru Ellie Kay has been talking about smart shopping for years, publishing numerous books and maintaining a blog about how to shop smart. With the back-to-school shopping season running up against the recession, she’s been hearing a lot from her readers about how they’ve changed their buying habits.

“It’s not enough to run a sale, there has to be something extra that retailers are putting out there for the consumer to want to spend back-to-school dollars in their store,” she said. “That includes sales plus store coupons, or free gifts, or if they’re shopping online, they want free online shipping.”

Kay said it’s also not enough for retailers to have a value message anymore. With consumers surfing coupon websites like and doubling up on store coupons, she said retailers have to work extra hard to get consumer’s attention.

“I do see the trend shifting to implement the use of social media sites–the use of tweeting and Facebook and soforth,” she said, pointing to consumer’s reactions to viral media campaigns such as Starbuck’s free pastry and free ice cream giveaways through Facebook. “When there’s a really good deal out there that’s working that people are going to want to take advantage of, they’re going to start chatting about it.”

Indeed, the co-founder of told Reuters that online coupons are taking on a life of their own as they get re-posted on blogs or on Facebook, while the CEO of said retailers are already looking for ways to offer creative online deals for the upcoming Christmas shopping season.

Kay said the recession is leaving a lasting impression on consumers.

“I think a lot of them are going to smarten up, and be mindful that when they saw their college funds go away, they’re going to be very careful the next time around,” she said. “I think there will be good things that come out of this, especially to those who are hit hard by it.”

That goes for future generations of shoppers as well.

“It’s an incredible teaching opportunity for children to help them realize that what’s really important in life is not how many toys they have,” she said. “That’s a way to teach a generation that’s always had what they want how to live on a budget.”

(Additional reporting by Nicole Maestri)

(Photo: Reuters)

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