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Grocery shopping

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Stores want our loyalty, and so do manufacturers – but in this economy, an increasing number of us are most loyal to coupons, sales and wherever we can get the best savings.

A new survey finds that frugality remains in fashion, and the longer that’s true, the more likely it could become a permanent habit. If you’ve gotten used to store brand items and sales, are you really going to blow your money on full-price name brands just because the economy starts to improve?

Not likely, according to participants in Deloitte’s annual “American Pantry Study“, released today. A whopping 94% of those surveyed said even if the economy improves, they will remain cautious and keep their spending at its current level. “I am spending more appropriately now,” one survey respondent said. “The recession has been a valuable learning experience.”

Part of that learning experience is understanding that saving money doesn’t really have to be that hard. Other than the time and work involved in clipping coupons and watching sales, many savvy shoppers don’t feel like they’re suffering. “Even though I’m spending less on products now,” said 72% of those surveyed, “it doesn’t feel like I’m sacrificing much.”

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As many couponers already know, or have learned, one of the keys to big savings is to rethink your brand loyalties. And many shoppers are doing just that. More of us are opting for store brands, or dividing our loyalties among several national brands. 84% of those surveyed said they have several brands in mind that they will consider when shopping, and they’ll buy whichever one makes for the best deal. The study suggests we’re most loyal to our preferred brands of household cleaners and candy, least loyal to specific brands of paper plates, paper towels and bottled water. But overall, brand loyalty is declining across nearly all categories.

We’re also embracing coupons and loyalty cards. 58% of those surveyed said they use their store loyalty cards every time they shop – up from 44% two years ago. And 80% agreed that “it’s fun to see how much money I can save by using coupons or my shopper loyalty card.” Yet “loyalty” card may be a misnomer, because we tend not to stay loyal to any one store in particular. The study found that more of us are shopping around, frequenting an average of 5.5 different types of stores (including grocery, mass merchandise, club, drug, convenience, dollar, neighborhood market and online stores) for all of our food, beverage and personal good purchases.

“I know everything goes on sale,” one shopper said, “so I just wait for it or switch stores for when the stuff I want is on sale.” More than half of shoppers surveyed said they have a good sense of when the products they want will be on sale, and 60% say they plan their shopping trips around when they know products will be on sale – no matter what store is selling them.

When using coupons, most say they’re not tempted to spend more to save more – 71% said they only use coupons for items they would have purchased anyway. And the study notes that interest in mobile coupons and online grocery shopping is on the rise. Though it’s worth noting that the survey was conducted online, which could skew the results toward those who are already more comfortable with technology versus those who haven’t quite embraced it.

One of the biggest takeaways, Deloitte executive Pat Conroy concludes in a news release announcing the study, “is how embedded frugality has become due to the recession.” Only a quarter of those surveyed said they plan to purchase more national brands as the economy improves. The rest of us are fine with the lower-priced products that we’ve grown accustomed to over the past several years.

So retailers and manufacturers take note – we’ve learned how to save during this long recession. And for most of us, there’s no going back.

2 Comments

  1. This is a tough one for two reasons:
    1) I have seen no reports of how large numbers of Americans have lost weight during the recession.
    2) Saying you will do a thing and actually following through are two very different things. [Think: New Year’s Resolutions.]

    I coupon EVERY time I go shopping and as a result; I buy MORE. The only real way to save money in my house is to stay out of stores. (& that includes the internet.)
    & that loyalty thing? The store has to earn it. Just ask JCPenny.

  2. Coupon Goob says:

    Yeah, there’s no going back for me. I love saving money and enjoy the game of it all. Though I do have stores I like to shop at more.

    Happy Couponing :-]

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