At U.S. warehouse club stores, a growing number of shoppers are giving up steak for cheaper chicken. Coffee sales are soaring at McDonald's, while higher-priced Starbucks slows. Restaurants are serving fewer customers because more people are eating at home.
Stung by the housing slump, tightening credit terms, and rising inflation, U.S. households are finding ways to cut back, putting a damper on the consumer spending that is the driving force behind the economy.
Retail sector analysts call it "trading down" when consumers seek out cheaper alternatives, and it is increasingly evident across chain stores and restaurants. Even gasoline consumption has slowed in recent weeks.