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American Express study: Consumers opting for less frequent, but larger transactions in retail

New York City — Consumers are spending more, but doing so in fewer transactions, according to American Express Business Insights’ most recent Business Insights Spend Sights report.

The study, which examines spending patterns across several key categories, U.S. cities and demographic groups, finds that while economic uncertainty continues to dampen overall consumer confidence, a new pattern of less frequent but measurable splurging has become evident among a range of customer groups in several categories.

“Spending patterns since the recession indicate that value is top of mind for consumers, even among the most affluent customers," said Ed Jay, SVP at American Express Business Insights. "That said, the occasional ‘splurge' pattern also shows that while consumers try to practice restraint, the prolonged economic uncertainty still cannot impede them from making a special purchase or two from the luxury brands that they love."

Key retail findings of the report include:

  • Consumers exercised restraint in luxury apparel and accessories spending, with 50.5% of average consumers and 40.6% of ultra-affluent consumers posting less than three transactions on luxury fashion in the second quarter;

  • In keeping with the new pattern of occasional splurges, however, consumers spent a surprising 10.1% per transaction for luxury apparel and accessories in Q2, while making 6.2% fewer purchases;

  • By region, Los Angeles' mature affluent consumers proved to be fashion plates, increasing spend by 25% in the second quarter on apparel and accessories. By contrast, their New York City counterparts increased spend by just 1% in this category, indicating a significant regional shift in fashion consumption.

  • Shifting consumer spending patterns in the restaurant sector support a prolonged and growing trend toward value dining, with the value category posting the only gain in spend, at 3.5%, in the second quarter. Fine dining spend decreased slightly, by 0.6%, and casual establishments continued to see a decline, with a 3.2% decrease.

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