Money talks, and smart consumers will learn something by listening. When looking at changes in American spending habits, many remark on how evidence of the current economic climate shines through. Another important insight we can gather is how consumer needs and desires can transform available products, prices, business strategies, and even the economy. What people buy (or don’t buy) has the power to change both the consumer landscape and the political one.
One of the most obvious examples from recent history is the growing popularity of health foods. Consumers are looking more closely at food labels and demanding nutritious and environmentally sustainable options. Everything from Chef Boyardee to soda, bread, milk, cereal, and orange juice have seen significant drops in sales, while organic foods and alternatives like almond milk have seen higher demand. As a result, companies are beginning to change the products they offer and even powerful businesses, such as fast food companies, are losing steam.
But it’s not just food products that are seeing shifts. Time Magazine highlighted several other items that have seen significant drops in sales. For various reasons, American consumers stopped purchasing these products. And as with all large-scale consumer shifts, the implications could be huge for both businesses and everyday shoppers.
Chewing gum sales dipped at least 10% between 2009 and 2014. At the same time, mint sales have increased. In an attempt to fight their way back, gum manufacturers have tried cutting out artificial ingredients, experimenting with new sugar-free formulas, and infusing gum with vitamins, but with little success. According to an article in Quartz, the problem is chewing has simply gone out of style. With standard mint sales up 15% and power mints like Altoids up 27%, it seems Americans now prefer to freshen their breath with mints.
Beard-loving hipsters have repeatedly been blamed for a decline in razor sales, and Procter and Gamble even spoke out about the problem of trendy facial hair and its impact on sales. The company singled out Movember, a 10-year-old tradition of men giving up shaving in November to promote awareness of prostate cancer. In response, P&G is coming up with new products and pushing the concept of “manscaping” and grooming other parts of the male body in hopes that men will continue to find reasons to purchases shaving supplies.
Gun sales have boomed in recent years, often spiking in response to mass shootings, which prompt consumers to buy guns seemingly for protection or to head off tougher regulations in the future. But in 2014, gun sales started to fall — at times quite sharply. Gun sales dropped 22% at the sporting goods retailer Cabela’s in the first quarter of 2014. Americans stopped purchasing firearms in part because there was no perceived likelihood of future gun control measures to motivate new purchases. But according to Time, the recent dip in gun sales should be taken with a grain of salt. The drop may have just signaled a “returning to normal,” which seems accurate as evidenced by a spike in sales just this June.
4. Golf equipment
Golf is declining in popularity largely because Americans have begun to see the sport as expensive and elitist. As the economy continues to recover and the wealth gap widens, Americans don’t have the time, money, or interest in pursuing a golfing hobby anymore, so it’s no surprise that sales for golf gear have fallen as well. Dick’s Sporting Goods announced in 2014 that its golf equipment sales were down roughly 10% and its average driver was about 16% cheaper.
Convertibles weren’t always considered a luxury reserved for the wealthy. With some of these fun summer vehicles priced below $25,000, convertibles have been marketed to drivers of various income levels. However, convertible sales plummeted 44% after hitting a peak in 2004. Research indicates that these days, nearly one in five convertible buyers come from households earning at least $175,000 (compared to 11% of buyers of all cars), and 12% of buyers own homes valued at over $1 million (compared to 4% of buyers of other cars).
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