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August 24, 2021

Consumers ditching full shopping carts more than ever: report

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

It’s been a tough, gritty fight to find the most depressing story of this recession.

Back in March, no one was having sex. Then April came, and abortions were on the rise. Just last month – in a kind of cruel, ironic circle of life – people couldn’t even afford their own damn funerals.

Rarely have stories come out showing just how the downturn has ravaged our psyche, though, having turned healthy consumers into frugal, paranoid and frightened shoppers.

The new report doing just that comes from the Associated Press, and the only thing eclipsing its discouragement is its subtlety in doing so.

According to the news agency, instances of abandoning your shopping cart – you know, filling it up, walking it around the store and just flat-out leaving it in an aisle without buying anything – have shot through the roof since the recession began.

This is nothing new, of course; it happens in the grocery store all the time. But the types of abandoned sales and the frequency with which it’s occurring certainly seems like cause for concern.

A retail consultant tells the AP that, while “hard numbers are difficult to come by,” in 25 per cent of shoppers’ trips to the store, they’re now ditching at least one item. In the recession of the early '90s, it was 15 to 20 per cent. “In good times, it’s more like 10 per cent,” he says.

People “want to be in the act of shopping, but they don’t want to be in the act of buying,” Joel Bines, a turnaround consultant, adds on the matter.

Now, it’s easy to sit back and say, Well, great, it’s about time we smartened up and stopped spending over our heads. A little rationality isn’t hurting anyone.

Yet look closer and the real story here is how damaged shoppers have become in light of the economic adversity.

Consider, too, how such trends appear to affect stores like Home Hardware (labour costs for restocking abandoned goods would go up without any actual sales to offset them) and this issue becomes greater than one of personal spending.

And in an economy many advise will remain stagnant unless we go out and buy stuff, chalk this up as another red flag in the long line of depressing recessionary anecdotes.



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...