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Thinking big no longer in vogue as shoppers search for feel-good stores

LAS VEGAS – “It’s no longer chic to be chic,” Sarah Quinlan told the audience at the “Luxury Retail Consumer Trends – Worldwide and in Your Neighborhood” panel Sunday afternoon at ICSC RECon 2015 in Las Vegas.

It was the first of many bold statements from the MasterCard Advisors senior vice president and group head of Market Insights during the panel. Quinlan heads up the analytics and insights consulting unit of MasterCard.

Quinlan used data collected by the company to touch on several things the numbers tell about the retail industry.

SARAH QUINLAN
SARAH QUINLAN

Some of the key points she pointed out was the unpopularity of marketing only to the so-called “one percent.”

“Go for the aspiring affluent,” said Quinlan. Luxury’s popularity has faded, she added. “Luxury is not cool,” she said. Not just in the U.S., but worldwide, luxury spending is down. “There’s a drop off in luxury spending like you wouldn’t believe,” she said.

The numbers increasingly point to creating a luxury experience at non- luxury prices. Brands like Warby Parker come to mind, which makes trendy, quality eyewear for a fraction of the normal prices for eyeglasses.

“The consumer is back and spending like there’s no tomorrow, they’re just not spending in the same way they spent before. The way that they’re spending is experientially. We spend small,” she said.

Businesses with $50 million or less in total retail sales in the U.S. have seen sales goes up by 7.5 percent in March, year-over-year, while total retail sales in the U.S. went up by 4.7 percent in March, year-over-year.

Shoppers want a retail experience.
Shoppers want a retail experience.

Quinlan suggested larger retailers emulate smaller retailers — which is where the shoppers are going. “Curate, make it feel personal, make it unique. make it standout,” she said. “People are spending on experiences.”

Restaurant sales grew by 7.3 percent in April, year-over-year, the third consecutive month of over seven percent growth.

And the fast casual sector has seen huge growth and popularity among consumers, growing 13.9 percent y-o-y, while casual grew 6.6 percent year-over-year.

In clothing, department stores aren’t performing the same, and are down eight percent. “This is not the preferred way we shop,” Quinlan said, though she dismissed that e-commerce was filling that gap.

“Bricks and mortar is not dead,” she said. “Shopping is social.”

Quinlan said in her research that 6.7 percent of all retail sales were e-commerce. This continued on the trend of “uniqueness” and “experiences.”

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