Retailers have blamed the weather, slow job growth and millennials for their poor results this past year, but a new study claims that more than 20 percent of Americans are simply too poor to shop.
These 26 million Americans are juggling two to three jobs, earning just around $27,000 a year and supporting two to four children — and exist largely under the radar, according to America’s Research Group, which has been tracking consumer shopping trends since 1979.
“The poorest Americans have stopped shopping, except for necessities,” said Britt Beemer, chairman of ARG.
Beemer has been tracking this subgroup for two years, ever since his weekly surveys of 15,000 consumers picked up that 21 percent of consumers did not finish their Christmas shopping in 2014 due to being too busy working. That number grew to 29 percent last year, and Beemer dug in to learn more about them, calling them on holidays.
He estimates that this group has swelled from 6 million households four years ago, because their incomes have not kept pace with expenses like medical costs.
Nearly half of all Americans have not seen an increase in salary over the last five to seven years, and another 28 percent have seen their take-home pay reduced by higher medical insurance deductions or switching to part-time jobs, ARG found.
“It’s scary when you start to see things that you’ve never seen before,” said Beemer. “People are so pessimistic about their future.”
Most of those living on the edge — 68 percent are women between the ages of 28 and 38 — work in retail or in call centers, according to Beemer.
Another sign that a chunk of the population has pulled back its spending is that discounters like Walmart and the Dollar Store have been “holding their own,” said Richard Church, managing director of Discern Securities.