the Insiders


February 1, 2013 3:23 PM

Retailers Are Losing the Consumer's Time

Brands spend millions trying to win consumer's hearts, minds and pocket books, but they're losing the battle for their time -- her time in particular....

Brands spend millions trying to win consumer's hearts, minds and pocket books, but they're losing the battle for their time -- her time in particular.

In 2011, Americans spent 28.8 minutes shopping per day on weekends and holidays, both in stores and online. That's a drop of 12.7 percent from the 33 minutes spent buying stuff during their off days in 2006, according to a new analysis of the Labor Department's American Time Use Survey by IHS Global Insight economists Chris Christopher and Leslie Levesque. 

Women are the biggest part of this retreat from shopping, having trimmed their weekend and holiday shopping to 31.9 minutes per day, down from almost 41 minutes, a decline of about 22.2 percent. 

Although it has become quicker to shop, thanks in part to the Web, Christopher and Levesque said the "overwhelming forces changing shopping behavior are economic -- income, job prospects, creditworthiness, wealth and consumer mood." 

The economic duo said there was anecdotal evidence that holiday shoppers are goal-oriented "hit-and-run" consumers who want to get in and get out of stores. 

"Time spent browsing is vanishing," they said. 

Christopher and Levesque expect the trend to reverse itself as the job market and wages improve. 

But retailers don't have to wait for the economy. 

Retailers have been talking about "retailtainment" or "experiential retailing" for years now, but there are still so many stores that offer so few real reasons to be there. And that's kind of surprising given how clear it is that retailers need to offer more if they want people to come into the stores, spend time and ultimately buy. 

I think of this as I wander out of our Midtown offices and past the packed library -- an institution hit by the Internet if there ever was one -- and on to often sleepy stores. 

People so often need somewhere to be, to hang out. Urban Outfitters is good at this, offering places to see and be seen and cool knickknacks to browse if you're looking for a bigger purchase. 

National Public Radio recently profiled a cafe chain with nine outposts, seven in Russia and two in the Ukraine. 

At Tsiferblat, which translates into Clockface Café, the coffee, tea and cookies are free, but you pay to be there -- slightly less than $4 an hour. People bring their own food, use the space for parties and lectures and to hang out. 

That's so contrary to the normal way of thinking and so smart and, just perhaps, a glimpse of the future now.
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