US Shoppers Are Still Driven By Saving a Buck

The vast majority shop regularly at discount retailers

Despite the recession a decade ago and consumer confidence rising this year, US shoppers still care about value. 

A new National Retail Federation (NRF) study examines what it is calling "value shoppers," the 89% of US consumers who frequent discount retailers. With a figure that high, this behavior transcends gender, region, income and age.

Compared with five years ago, 63% of respondents said they buy more items on sale now. But where are these sales-minded consumers shopping?

By channel, dollar stores are the most popular with this set (58%) and half shop at off-price stores like Marshalls and discount grocers like Aldi and Lidl.

While the report called out millennials as many do, this group made up the same share of value shoppers as Gen X (29%). Gen X also had a higher incidence than millennials, Gen Z or boomers in shopping in a majority of the retail channels: 70% frequent dollar stores, 60% off-price stores and 43% thrift stores. Boomers rule discount grocery shopping (59%) and millennials favor outlet stores more than the rest (52%).

More than three-quarters (76%) will wait for a sale or search for a coupon or promotion if an item isn't on sale. The NRF study focused on offline retail, but new RetailMeNot data shows two-thirds of digital shoppers in the US search for promotions beforehand and mobile coupons are increasingly used at online and brick-and-mortar retailers.

These shoppers are also willing to give up many retail perks if that means they will get a bargain. More than eight in ten shoppers (82%) did not expect a discount retailer to offer buy online, pick up in-store options or free two-day shipping. Product reviews and entertaining shopping experiences weren't expected by many either, with only one-third anticipating quality customer service.

Even as retailers focus intently on improving customer experience, consumers are willing to accept fewer frills in exchange for savings. There is a reason why basic economy airfare is becoming the norm, private labels are thriving and dollar stores continue to open new locations while other retailers are shuttering.