Retail report finds Americans souring on inflation, online shopping

A new retail and e-commerce report finds inflation is affecting the shopping habits of 85% of Americans, leading most to reduce their purchases and feel unhappier buying online.

In the report published Thursday, Morning Consult found that 77% of Americans are shopping less to save money. Only 41% said they enjoyed online shopping in June, down from 50% in March.

The report warns against blaming supply-chain issues for the trend. It notes that Americans, especially the millennials who make up most online shoppers, have less money to spend as consumer prices rise.

“Online shoppers are reporting fewer delayed orders, but as consumers begin deferring discretionary purchases because of inflation, shopping for fun isn’t what it used to be,” the report stated.

Many shoppers also are coping with inflation by looking for discounts and shopping at discount stores, Morning Consult reported.

Some retailers say the findings are spot-on.

“We sell pet food, among many other things, and everyone wants to do the best they can for their pet, but inflation and increasing credit card swipe fees are causing prices to soar,” said Jessica Bettencourt, CEO of Klem’s in Spencer, Massachusetts . “Customers are forced to make decisions to continue to purchase the items or brands that they have grown to love.”

Robert Jones, president of American Sale in Tinley Park, Illinois, said his customers are “being more selective” about buying patio and pool items.

“Inflation brings uncertainty and consumers are pausing before making purchases,” Mr. Jones said.

In northern Indiana, the president of Stephenson’s of Elkhart clothing store predicts that consumer unhappiness will grow as inflation catches up with families.

“The added expense of doing business online, coupled with inflationary pressures in pricing, will only continue to push retail prices upward,” Danny Reynolds said.

In an email to The Washington Times, the National Retail Federation said many consumers are cutting back on service sector luxuries to prioritize “back-to-school and back-to-college items” this month.

“Inflation is certainly top of mind for consumers right now. But it’s important to remember that higher prices do not impact all shoppers or all categories in the same ways,” the statement said.

The trade association noted that retail sales numbers rose 7.3% in July from the same month last year, “further illustrating that consumers continue to spend where they need to” as they confront “the highest levels of inflation in four decades.”

Rising food and rent prices hit consumers the hardest this summer.

Food prices jumped 10.9% in July over the same month last year, the fastest annual increase Americans have seen in the cost of groceries since May 1979. Prices for shelter, medical care, new vehicles and car insurance also rose.

According to the Morning Consult report, 92% of US consumers are “very” or “somewhat” concerned about the impact of inflation on their grocery budgets, leading them to spend less on clothing and personal care items.

Retailers say the rising cost of necessities has also reduced Americans’ spending on hobbies, including model trains.

“Groceries, food and gas are the most frequent budget busters we hear about,” said Patti Riordan, owner of Smoke Stack Hobby Shop in Lancaster, Ohio. “Less discretionary income in their pockets and higher gas prices equal purchasing lower priced items in our store and fewer trips in.”

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