Shoppers are Choosing Experiences Over Stuff, and That’s Bad News for Retailers

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Macy’s, Urban Outfitters, Bed Bath & Beyond and others this month reported ringing up weak sales during the holiday shopping season, capping a tepid year that many in retail attributed to cautious consumers who are not ready to forget the lessons of the last recession.

And yet look beyond the mall, and there’s a different dynamic: Spending on air travel hit record levels last year, even as the average price of an airline ticket dropped. Restaurant sales were up a robust 8 percent in the first 11 months of 2015, easily outperforming the 2 percent increase seen in the overall retail industry. Millennials were on track to spend an average of $750 each in 2015 on media, including video games and streaming services such as Netflix and Spotify.

In other words, consumers are plenty willing to open their wallets, but what they choose to buy reflects a fundamental shift: Increasingly, shoppers are passing up the cashmere sweaters or leather handbags and instead shelling out for experiences such as a beach vacation, a dinner out on the town or a concert. [Read More]