According to Nielsen, trips to U.S. retail outlets decreased by 1.4% in the third quarter of 2008, compared with Q3 2007.
Declines were especially steep during the last four weeks of the quarter, which saw the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the near-collapse of Merrill Lynch, and the government bailout of AIG.
Traditional mass retailers (excluding supercenters), department stores, and office supply stores saw the most dramatic declines in the number of shopping trips last quarter vs. a year ago. Trips to mass retailers dropped by 9.1%, trips to department stores were down by 8.9%, and trips to office supply stores fell by 7.9%, Nielsen reported.
Retail channels offering low prices, strong value, and mostly "need to have" products -- versus "nice to have" items -- fared the best during Q3 2008. Trips to online retailers (+7.5%), supercenters (+3.6%), and dollar stores (+3%), for instance, showed the largest increases, compared with Q3 2007.
More affluent consumers looking for bargains drove the growth in trips to value retail channels, while lower-income households adopted more drastic cost-cutting measures, eliminating shopping trips entirely, according to Nielsen.
Almost 25% of U.S. consumers reported having no spare cash after covering their essential living expenses. In comparison, just over 10% of consumers worldwide reported a similar lack of expendable income.
U.S. consumers were also more likely than consumers worldwide to use expendable income to pay off debts, Nielsen found. More than 35% of U.S. consumers reported using their spare cash for debt payments, while only 30% of consumers worldwide reported the same.
Stay tuned on Nielsen Wire for regular updates on U.S. retail trends, and other key economic indicators.