Consumers Choose Experiences Over Material Things

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More folks are choosing a stellar view over that new TV

Americans are often criticized for being obsessive consumers, but the Great Recession has sparked real change in U.S. shopping habits, according to a report by NBC News.

Since the recession, Americans have begun to spend more of their discretionary dollars on quality experiences, such as travel, rather than clothing and other goods.

“The permanent wealth loss suffered in 2008, along with the shock of major American companies seemingly going bust overnight, did a number on our sense of what can be taken away,” Sarah Quinlan, MasterCard senior vice president and head of Market Insights,” told NBC. “We value a sense of what’s permanent, what we can take with us: memories.”

Since July 2011, consumer spending at department stores has fallen 7.7 percent, according to the report. At the same time, “consumers are putting a higher value on spending their discretionary dollars on experiences, and less on items like clothing,” reports NBC.

Americans will spend $802 billion on leisure travel this year, according to the U.S. Travel Association. Since 2011, spending on travel has risen 14.5 percent, according to SpendingPulse.

NBC also reports that airlines are “more profitable than ever, and the rising demand for lodging has helped propel start-ups like Airbnb and HomeAway compete for market share against large hotel chains.”

For retailers, the new spending trends do offer a bit of hope. When people travel, they have more free time to shop. According to the U.S. Travel Association, shopping is the No. 2 leisure activity for U.S. travelers. However, shopping takes a back seat to other priorities.

“The key thing that we see is people go out and they dine first and then potentially they’ll go shopping after,” Quinlan told NBC. “What we’re really showing is there is a preference for wanting to be with our family and friends and enjoying being together.”

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