While Americans spent more time sleeping, working and going to parties in 2011, they spent less time shopping, according to new data from the American Time Use Survey.
Since 2003 when the survey was initiated, Americans have spent steadily less and less of their days "purchasing goods and services." In 2011, the average number of minutes per day spent on shopping dropped to 43.2 minutes from 45 minutes in 2010. In 2003, Americans spent on average 48.6 minutes of the day shopping. The latest survey, released on Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is based on interviews with about 12,500 Americans.
The results are good news for some retailers like Amazon.com, where an endless selection of products can be bought in seconds with a click of the mouse. For others, such as those department stores sprinkled in labyrinthine indoor shopping malls, the trend is less helpful.
"When shopping malls were built, the idea was for folks to come and graze from anchor to anchor," said Mark Vitner, senior economist at Wells Fargo. "Consumers don't have time for that anymore." Vitner says the results of the survey coincide with long-time trends in the retail industry, which in the 1980s and 90s transitioned from building stores in malls to building big box "power centers" where shoppers could drive up to store entrances and pick up items quickly.
Now, companies are investing even speedier shopping options, such as e-commerce websites and mobile apps that allow purchases to be made from any place at any time. Even groceries and everyday household items are now being targeted by online retailers like Diapers.com and FreshDirect, which deliver daily-needs items to busy customers.
In addition to websites, big box retailers are also building smaller, more convenient locations. Target will open its first CityTarget store in Chicago this summer, following in the footsteps of competitor Walmart's "neighborhood markets." BestBuy and Office Depot are also adding more small-format and urban stores to their fleets.
The 2008 recession also contributed to the decline in time spent shopping, according to Chris Christopher, senior economist at IHS Global. "There are a lot of people living paycheck to paycheck, and more people shopping using lists," he said. "Even during the holiday shopping period, people don't wander malls and browse. They go in like a hit-and-run operation to get what they need and get out."