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To Buy or Not to Buy: Shopping Behavior in a Recession Economy: A Survey of Washington Residents 18+

This and Related Reports


While Washington state consumers are committed to controlling their spending and their debt, they are losing the battle against an aggressive marketplace armed with tactics to promote buying. This statewide AARP survey of Washington adults age 18+ shows that more than two-thirds of Washington residents are trying to reduce spending, but many have failed.

Key findings reveal that:

  • Washingtonians are trying to cut back, but many are still spending.  Almost seven in ten say they tried very hard (33%) or somewhat (35%) to reduce their overall spending during the past 12 months; however, 62% say they did not reduce their spending in grocery stores, 57% did not reduce their spending online, and 35% did not cut back in department stores.
  • Washingtonians make impulse purchases.  Most respondents (84%) say they made an impulse purchase at a department store, grocery store, or Internet retailer in the past 12 months.
  • Many Washingtonians are at their debt limit.  Close to four in ten (37%) report having as much or more debt than they can handle.
  • Impulse purchases can be costly to Washingtonians.  Respondents spent an average of $127 on an impulse purchase in a department store; however, when asked to consider the most expensive item purchased on impulse in any type store in the past 12 months, respondents indicate an average cost of $333.
  • Washington women report impulse purchasing more than men.
  • Retailers’ efforts to encourage impulse buying go unnoticed.  With respect to their most recent impulse purchase at a department or grocery store, less than five percent of respondents say that store ambiance (lighting, aromas, sounds) contributed to purchasing that item.

AARP commissioned Alan Newman Research to conduct the telephone survey during March 11-21, 2010.  A random digit dialing sample of 800 Washington residents age 18 and older completed interviews.  For more information, contact Jennifer Sauer at 202-434-6207. (30 pages)

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