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For Consumers, Style Is Back, Online Promos Not So Much

The Great Recession may have been officially over for three years, but consumers are still reacting to it — and that, combined with changes in the retail landscape, means how they spend has permanently changed, according to a report from the National Retail Federation.

Consumer confidence has rebounded — it’s now at mid-2007 levels, with 51 percent of male and 42 percent of female consumers saying they’re confident or very confident in the economy, according to Prosper Insights. But almost half are still spending less overall than before the recession, a third are shopping for sales and using coupons more often, more than a quarter are still dining out less frequently and one fifth say they still cut back on travel and “small luxuries” — though not movies, recreation and electronics.

In apparel purchases, concern for style is back on the rise for both women and men, and while more than 60 percent say they usually look for on-sale items, less than a quarter will only buy apparal when there’s a sale. Those trends track new apparel retailers like Trunk Club, Rent the Runway, fast-fashion and flash-sale retailers.

Customers also now have firmer ideas about the retailer format they want to buy from. Among men, discounters have dropped in popularity and department stores are up, while for women both specialty and department stores are up slightly but discount stores are still their go-to apparel destination. For both men and women, online is growing but still a tiny percentage of the preferred format.

And while the Internet is increasingly important for pre-shopping research, promotions using email or Internet advertising or social media influence fewer than 15 percent of consumers, the study found. The biggest influencer for both men and women? That’s still the lowly coupon.

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