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MSNBC reports that “many twenty- and thirtysomethings raised on MTV and InStyle magazine have tried to mimic the glamorous lives of the rich and famous through the use of credit cards. But as the 21st century has ushered in skyrocketing housing prices, stagnant income levels and five- or six-figure student loans to pay off — a seismic shift has occurred: A growing number of young adults are reassessing their lifestyles and mimicking the frugal habits of their Depression-era grandparents.”

The timing of the MSNBC story is ironic. Less than a month ago, a new study from ACNielsen said that Americans are the most cash-poor consumers in the world, with almost a quarter of all US consumers saying that once they have covered their essential living expenses, they have no money left over.

MSNBC notes that “many economic forecasters doubt that those under age 35 will be the first generation not to equal or surpass their parents’ standard of living. That is a disturbing reality for a group that should be in its prime, looking toward marriage and their first home. Instead, they struggle to pay hefty student loans and credit card debt.”
KC's View:
Sometimes retailers delude themselves that someday discounts will be less important to most consumers, and companies like Wal-Mart will struggle because of how they are positioned.

It is going to be a long time until someday.

These stories suggest that for a generation of young people who already are trying to cut corners, and who are facing the possibility that their standard of living is lower than that of their parents, discounts will continue to be important. It won’t be everybody, and it won’t be on everything.

But it will raise the ante for retailers who can’t be lowest on price, and force them to find other ways to create compelling shopping experiences.