Becoming a “Surgical Shopper” During Tough Economic Times Skip to main content

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Becoming a “Surgical Shopper” During Tough Economic Times


During the early part of the new Millennium, as the economy blossomed and business was booming, “Shopping ‘Til You Drop” was far from a foreign concept. From luxury electronics purchases to cultivating closets full of clothes, Americans made a habit of spending as much as they made as they also spent tons of time in malls, outlets and stores. But according to a recent series about the state of the American consumer from The Associated Press, and as reported by The Huffington Post, those days of unconscious spending seem to be over, even as the economy bounces back, giving way to a more “surgical” approach aimed at spending economy, especially among lower-income consumers.

In fact, even though our Great Recession supposedly ended recently, and economic growth is slowly, but steadily, on the mend, many of the “drastic changes that Americans made in how they spend money” have endured, with economists speculating that these deliberate, thrifty habits are here to stay. “The days when shopping was a leisure activity unto itself are over, at the nation's largest shopping center and beyond. Americans are being precise in how they shop, regardless of what they are buying. They're visiting fewer stores, checking off their lists and walking away. They're spending fewer minutes online when they shop. They aren't stockpiling food or clothes.”

Specifically, “Shoppers today visit an average of three stores during a trip to the mall, according to ShopperTrak, a Chicago research firm that tracks sales and customer counts at more than 70,000 stores. That compares with an average of five stores in 2006. Inside stores, there's evidence that impulse buys are on the decline. ‘Stores are messier because people dump so much merchandise before they check out,’ says Paco Underhill. His company, Envirosell, studies how consumers behave in stores. It's ‘surgical shopping,’ says John Gerzema, a brand executive at advertising and marketing firm Young & Rubicam.”

Are you a surgical shopper? Here are some signs that when you visit the mall, if at all, you’re carrying the mark of the economic malaise:

You Have a Shopping “Strategy”
Do you have a shopping strategy? Buying at certain times and certain days of the month or week when goods are most likely to be cheaper or, at the very least, more economical? Many people relying on government assistance plan to shop in the “wee hours of the morning on the first day of each month” when “government assistance electronically drops into debit cards of millions of Americans.” Lining up after midnight (or, for stores that close, first thing in the morning) after their Social Security, unemployment or other checks are deposited, Americans bring coupons and buy in bulk to save on basics and get by for another month. Similarly, you may be using fewer trips to buy in bulk at stores like Sam’s Club and Costco, where bulk buys for larger households or business are the norm. Like squirrels storing up for winter, many of us are trying to do more with less…all the whole with fewer visits to the proverbial well.


You Now Use Online Coupons
Surgical shopping also means “targeted shopping,” and as a result online coupons like “Groupon” offering specific deals from local businesses are as popular as ever. “Since its launch in late 2008, the [Groupon] site has attracted 25 million subscribers around the world... Shoppers who sign up for Groupon e-mails are pitched mainly local offers, from discounts on massages to restaurants. If enough people act to take advantage, the deal takes effect. If that quota isn't met, no one gets the deal. The Gap's recent Groupon offer of $25 off a $50 purchase was a blockbuster. Gap sold 441,000 offers as part of a one-day only promotion in August, for a total of $11 million.”

You Subscribe to E-mail Updates for “Special Deals”
Shoppers are not only going to the malls less, they’re also going to fewer stores when they do. Gone are the days when people walk in and out of stories succumbing to the power of “browsing” or the “impulse buy.” Many people (maybe you?) are now subscribing to mailing lists for deals from only their most trusted stores—deals that allow you to weigh the cost-benefit of purchasing without the pressures of salespeople and with the conveniences of ordering online.

If you’re “spending” more time trying not to spend than actually living, you may want to choose another option: bankruptcy.  Get rid of your current debt and get a fresh start and a new chance to shop the smart way.  The first step is knowing a qualified bankruptcy attorney who can help you regain your consumer confidence. The bankruptcy experts at the Law Offices of John T. Orcutt offer a totally FREE debt consultation and now, more than ever, it’s time to take them up on their offer.

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