Talk About Inelastic

From the Wall Street Journal:

Collectively, families spent about $9.7 billion less on apparel last year compared to a year earlier, yesterday’s Consumer Expenditure Survey from the Labor Department showed. But it wasn’t from making their children wear hand-me-downs: families spent almost the same amount on kids — boys and girls — younger than 16 last year. But they reined in their spending on apparel for men and women 16 years and older, shoes and other clothing items.

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29 Responses to “Talk About Inelastic”


  1. 1 Michelle Benton October 7, 2009 at 11:35 AM

    I can’t really say that I am a big spender on clothes and apparel, but this past year I have spent even less. The numbers make sense to me. There have been times I have spent money on clothes even though my closet was already full, but now I don’t spend money on clothes unless I “need” something replaced. I would rather spend the money on groceries or put it away in savings in case I lose my job. Luxuries like brand new clothing become less important when you are trying to feed a family. There is no extra to be spreading around.

    This will probably cause retail stores inventory to grow and eventually become stagnent. They may have to mark things down a ton in order to move it. I suppose this could effect the consumer positively, but businesses may have to take some pretty big hits in the loss department. I wonder if thrift stores have increased sales.

  2. 2 Deb Snyder October 7, 2009 at 12:14 PM

    The numbers make sense to me as well.

    My job (before I got laid off) as CFO entails me to wear “business professional” clothing. I needed to look nice on days when I was out of the office in meetings or such. While in the office, we could dress down a bit. As a management team, we decided that we had all seen each others clothes so no longer needed to buy new ones just to impress each other, that we all knew money was tight and wanted to help each other out. Now that I am unemployed, my wardrobe doesn’t go much beyond hiking shorts and a tank top (or t-shirt when the weather changes.)

    Neither my husband nor I are much of a clothes horse.

    We instead, choose to put that money towards the kids clothes. Kids grow, they need new shoes, new soccer cleats and so on, you just can’t ignore those things.

    I also wonder what sorts of sales and discounts will happen during the Christmas retail season. Forecasts that I have read say that sales will be down even further.

  3. 3 Maria Rogan October 11, 2009 at 11:31 AM

    I have to confess that I love to shop! There are times when I go for the expensive stuff, but then again I try to find inexpensive things. The less money I spend, the more I have later on. Sales are awesome too! It always helps to find things on sale. I try to cut back on spending my money on clothing and use it for more important things. I think that stores are smart using sales to draw customers in. Because when i see a sale sign in a store window, I usually go in and check it out. Therefore, I think that stores tend to make more during their sales, especially if their clothing is usually expensive.

  4. 4 Robert Rey, Econ 100 October 11, 2009 at 9:45 PM

    I guess I can understand the reasons why spending for kid’s clothes and other apparel up to 16 years hasn’t changed because of a recession. Just a month ago I met with a relative who was very enthusiastic with buying new clothes for her 2 and 3 year old boys. At first, I was surprised at how much she was willing to spend on online venders (almost $70). However, she told me they couldn’t fit into many of the clothes she previously bought, and it would probably be a continuing pattern for at least a couple of years. Plus, according to her, the prices were comparably cheap than other places. In the infant ages, it’s hard to get kids to wear the same things because of their rapid development. Depending on their living situation, they can outgrow a lot of their old clothes very quickly. In this range, it’s an unavoidable expense.

    In the teen range, 12-16, it’s understandable in a different sense. You know how materialistic and fashion conscious kids are in that age. With attending school and other extracurricular activities, appearance is especially important as part of the experience. By this age, they’re also more independent, developing a sense of style they want to promote through clothing. However, being materialistic and fashion conscious, it’s not without struggles. For instance, anyone remember trying to explain to your parents why you need another pair of expensive shoes or dress when you have so many already? For the most part, at this range it is also unavoidable.

    As for the age range above 16, by then most people have bigger priorities to focus on and fewer resources to rely on by themselves.

  5. 5 Ruby S. October 12, 2009 at 11:36 AM

    These numbers do make sense because kids under the age of 16 are constantly growing so their parents are going to be buying them new clothes that fit, and those ages don’t come with too many responsibilities such as a phone bill, car payments, car insurance, college, etc.

    I am a big shopper, but I am pretty cheap so I only go for the sale items. It seems that especially in the last year there are more sales than ever in most stores which makes it easier to but a new wardrobe for less. Clothes are items that no one really needs, except maybe the essentials including coats and sweatshirts for colder weather. We have to cut back everywhere, but clothes are the things that go first.

  6. 6 Ben Petersen October 13, 2009 at 7:15 AM

    I have never been a big shopper, but these numbers jump out at you. Sales are down in the multi-billions, which is always an eye-opener. I would like to see it further broken to see which apparel has been hit the hardest, and for which major companies. This should not come as much of a surprise though as we are in a big economic downturn. Everyone looks at the essentials-what do they need to survive on a lower income? If that means wearing the same clothes as last year, so be it, you won’t be as fashionable.

  7. 7 Alexandria Horton October 13, 2009 at 7:31 AM

    I used to buy new clothes all the time, it was a hobby. Now that money is tight and even before I was without work, it doesn’t seem to matter too much to me anymore. It seems that way for most, we have bigger and better things to worry about nowadays than what eachother is wearing. Whereas before when money was flowing easy and everyone had a job to dress up for, there was that need to impress. I think it’s good that Americans are being humbled. Too bad for retail stores that employ alot of people. I know Macy’s employs about 250,000 American’s, if people can’t afford them anymore what will happen?

  8. 8 D. Colin Sorenson October 13, 2009 at 7:48 AM

    These numbers make sense because chilrend are the ones that constantly need new shoes, and clothes because they are growing so fast. Ages 16 and up spent less on clothing and such items because they are not in need of as many. I love to go shopping, but with this terrible economy I have been trying to save all the money I can for my future. I think this is the mind-set of everyone right now.

  9. 9 Gina October 13, 2009 at 7:49 AM

    These numbers make sense because chilrend are the ones that constantly need new shoes, and clothes because they are growing so fast. Ages 16 and up spent less on clothing and such items because they are not in need of as many. I love to go shopping, but with this terrible economy I have been trying to save all the money I can for my future. I think this is the mind-set of everyone right now.

    (wrong name last time…this is gina)

  10. 10 Angela October 18, 2009 at 7:59 AM

    Kids are growing so fast that their needs to get clothes than fit them are bigger than a teenager or an adult. Plus, parents always want the best for their children, so they might cut some of their expenses to put some money aside for whatever their kids need. I love shopping but with or without recession, I try to shop when stores are on sale. I don’t like paying full price for something that I know will have 20%-30% discount a week later.

  11. 11 Alex Stauffer October 19, 2009 at 5:08 PM

    Personally this makes me proud. It’s good to see that for the most part the families the united states knows what is important in life, which not everyone can. To see the rates of money spent on make their children happy and making them feel safe and loved is great. While the parents take down their own wants and necessities like tobacco and alcohol is good to see I think.

    But I do also see why these numbers are the way they are, I think that everything does make sense with the situation we are in with this recession.

  12. 12 Nubia Cazares October 21, 2009 at 7:30 PM

    These statistics aren’t very suprising. It actually makes complete sense, especially how our economy is at the moment. Although the media encourges us to spend many people aren’t spending as much as they used too. I know for a fact that this year I don’t shop as much as I used to. This recession has definitely made me think more about my needs and wants. I take care of my money more and prioritize better. I guess you could say I think before I buy something.

  13. 13 Genine Lobo October 21, 2009 at 9:18 PM

    Just as many others have stated, I too agree that children constantly grow and need more clothing. Infants constantly need new clothes throughout their first year because they simply cannot fit into their smaller sizes. Buying young children new clothing is extremely necessary because of their constant growth rate. On the other hand, children 16 years old and above stay about the same size and do not need clothes, but just want new clothes. For the most part, adults also do not drastically change clothing sizes, thus, they do not need new clothes either. It is not surprising to see such a large decrease in consumer spending and I’m sure these numbers will change as America moves out of this recession.

  14. 14 Melissa Alexander November 1, 2009 at 6:20 PM

    I can see how families spent less last year than the previous year/year’s. It’s hard to spend money you don’t have. OUr unemployment has been high…therefore we have had more people out of work than the previous years. However, parents always have to buy new items for thier younger children because they grow like weeds. Once kids hit a certain teenage age…they don’t grow as rapidly and can live without those cute jeans because they have several other pairs that still fit….where as if I had my 6 year old daughter still wearing her pants from last year she waould need to bust out her rain boots because she would look like a flood coming no matter what time of year it was. So, it’s evident that when times are tough we spend our money more wisely by only purchasing necessary items.

  15. 15 Carling November 8, 2009 at 12:01 PM

    I have to agree that these numbers to make sense. It is an accurate showing of the time that we are in. My Mom enjoys shopping, and so do I, and this year alone I have noticed that there have been many more sales than the previous years as well as more incentives when you buy more such as a free shirt or a gift card with a small amount of money on it.

    My brother and sister are in middle school and they are just hitting their growth spurts. Each year my parents make us go through our closets and purge our clothing that either doesn’t fit or we don’t want. We then take all the clothing that my family doesn’t want anymore to Goodwill. This year, the man who was helping us unload the car told us that this year they needed clothing donations more than ever.

  16. 16 Karla Martinez November 22, 2009 at 8:48 PM

    I have definitely seen first hand what this article states. It makes perfect sense that families spend the same amount of teenagers becuase they grow out of their clothes. This is not so much the case for adults, therefore it is easier to save money by buying clothing when it is needed and not just simply for wanting to dress fashionably. My mom and I love to shop, and when the economy wasn’t so bad, we would go shopping everytime that we were bored and had nothing to do, nowadays, we try to find other things to do besides spending money on clothes, especially since our closets are full to begin with. When my mom does go shopping is because my 12 and 16 year old siblings actually need something.

  17. 17 Kathryn Koller November 27, 2009 at 6:36 PM

    It’s good to see that people are willing to cut back for the sake of their kids. That way not every single person has to experience the intensity of recession. It also seems to be in benefit of the family environment too because adults are cutting back on their vices like alcohol and smoking. So that’s nice for the family home. It is interesting to see how the american family is adapting to the recession and what is considered a necessary cost and what can be cut back on.

  18. 18 Hyo Kim November 30, 2009 at 12:17 AM

    I believe that the spending for kids would keep increase,
    compare to our generation, the kids in these days, they want
    more electronic stuffs. And, in our concept, it’s telling us that it is a natural thing that can occur. But, think you as a kid in the back days, Iphones, and all those electronic things weren’t that necessary.

  19. 19 Christopher Morris December 3, 2009 at 9:06 AM

    Well you could take this two ways. You can say “Oh well thats just adults being responsible putting their children before themselves,” or you could say this just shows that regardless of a family’s economic situation kids will always get their way with parents. I try to look at it the first way, I mean I don’t think that spending should be the same, but I do think parents should be taking care of their kids before themselves. Kids that look bummy or have old clothes get picked on that’s the reality of the U.S. and it’s sad but that’s just the kind of country we’ve become. Looks mean a lot in this country.

  20. 20 Francine Zumbo December 5, 2009 at 5:19 PM

    I love to shop but the past year I notice i have not shopped as much as i usually. I try to go for more sales now and I notice my mom gives my little sister more of my clothes I do not wear. Yes its good to put money back in the economy but be reasonable about it.

  21. 21 Martin M December 6, 2009 at 9:08 PM

    This makes perfect sense. I think that from the ages 16 and higher, teens are more responsible and know the situation our economy is in. I have a niece and she is constantly growing out of her clothes. Children grow and it makes sense that we have to cater to their needs first and get them fitting clothes. Personally, I do like to get clothes, but I have to think about it first just to make sure I’ll have enough for the rest of the week.

  22. 22 Britany Linton December 8, 2009 at 6:01 PM

    I love shopping and have a problem not buying the expensive things but i also try to look for sales and for the less expensive version of what i like. I dont think the economy has affected the way i spend my money but thats because I dont have a shopping problem. I buy what i can afford and i dont shop when i dont have money 🙂

  23. 23 Jamie B December 8, 2009 at 9:35 PM

    I think that it is insaine that the number dropped so low. This had to hurt the economy drastically. The reason it dropped so low is because these are a luxury good. People don’t need fancy clothes and when the U.S. is in a recession it is one of the first to go.

  24. 24 Taylor Smith December 12, 2009 at 11:30 PM

    These numbers seem true, the under sixteen kids are growing and changing a lot more so they need more new clothes where as the older people are the less they grow out of their clothes needed new ones. I can not say the same for me I am always buying new clothes it seems like, but i look for the sales. I think that most people who spend big money on clothes are still spending. it can be a hard habit to break even when money is tight.

  25. 25 Hayden Scott December 14, 2009 at 11:47 AM

    This strategy makes perfect sense as a short term cost cutting measure for families, because (most) parents are the same size that they were last season, while children generally need new clothes each year as they grow. There is also less pressure on parents to wear the latest fashions and men are more likely to pick up clothing purely for the comfort and function, rather than specific style or trendiness.

  26. 26 Taylor Latt December 15, 2009 at 12:38 AM

    i am a compulsive shopper, so i try my hardest to stay out of the malls especially in a time like this. i have noticed that this past year i have not bought as much as i usually do, and that is due to the cuts in hours and loss of jobs. seems like i have more bills and less spending money!

  27. 27 Tiffany Molinar December 16, 2009 at 5:14 PM

    I agree with this article. I’ve definitely cut back on my speding the last couple of years. I find myself only buying clothes that I think I might need for special occations, rather than just buying something because I want it. I’m a lot more conscientious of what I spend my money on, not only because I have a baby now but because I know that money doesn’t go as far anymore. I’d rather save my money and be able to spend it on things that I really need, like gas, food, etc.

  28. 28 Tiffany Molinar December 16, 2009 at 5:16 PM

    Hayden made a good point also in saying that we are constantly having to buy clothes for children because they are growing, and our size remains relatively the same. I know that I’d much rather spend money on getting my daughter new things because she’s grown out of all her other clothes, rather than buying myself something new when I have plenty of clothes in my closet that I know still fit fine.

  29. 29 Tiffany Molinar December 16, 2009 at 5:20 PM

    To Deb. The prices are pretty good now. I know that the electronics have gone down quite a bit in price. I went to the store the other day looking for a television. They had one that my brother had purchased a few months ago, and between now and then it had gone down by almost $400. So if anything that is one positive thing that has come out of the poor economy.


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