AMEX: Fashionistas Still Spend (But Feel Guilty)

New York—Just because times may be tough for some American consumers, don’t think that all fashionistas aren’t still interested in the latest trends.

In fact, according to recent findings from the latest American Express Spending & Saving Tracker, Americans’ passion for fashion is alive and well–a quarter of Americans said they are passionate about fashion, so much so that the majority, some 54%, of these fashionistas say they didn’t cut back fashion-related spending despite the economic downturn.  However, these fashionistas were most likely to feel occasionally remorseful about spending on their passion compared to the foodies, techies and sports fanatics also surveyed.

The average total expenditures in 2010 to support their love of fashion is $1,444 for the general population, $2,865 for “young professionals” and $3,488 for “affluents.”

While Americans remain budget-conscious and focused on saving since the onset of the economic downturn, the majority (68%) say they did not decrease spending in the areas they are most passionate about–such as food (60%) electronics and gadgets (35%), sports (34%) and fashion (25%). But while nearly half of sports fanatics, foodies, and techies say they enjoy spending on their passion without ever feeling guilty, fashionistas were more likely to admit feeling guilt pangs about their spending (50%).

American Express Spending & Saving Tracker surveyed consumers on their spending habits across four popular areas of interest: food, electronics and gadgets, sports and fashion–as well as current spending and saving intentions.  The research sample of 2,025 consumers among the U.S. general population included two subgroups – the affluent and young professionals.

Passions Get a Pass When it Comes to Budget Cuts

Sports fanatics were most apt to forgo cuts (76%), followed by techies (67%), fashionistas (54%) and foodies (53%).  Among fashionistas, 63% checked off ‘self’ as the primary influencer on spending on their passion, followed by friends/peers/ family (36%) and advertisements and weather (33% each).   But the young professional fashionista is swayed more by the celebrity lifestyle –32% are influenced by movies/TV; 27% by celebrities; and 13% by celebrity sightings at retail shops.

When asked about what they purchase in their wardrobes, most fashion passionates tend to spend on shoes (70%), apparel (68%), accessories (49%), jewelry (38%) and “special occasion merchandise” (33%).   Other interesting spending categories include: vacations centered around shopping (16%); personal shoppers/stylists (12%) high-end clothing rental (11%).

“Americans are placing their passions high on their list of spending priorities, while continuing to manage to balance their budgets,” said Pamela Codispoti, American Express executive vice president and general manager, Consumer Card Products.  “This is encouraging news, as concerns rise about whether the economy is stabilizing.”

Shift from “Pay Down” Mode to “Save More” Mode

In a year-over-year comparison, more than one-third (37%) of consumers anticipate spending less over the next 30 days (a slight drop from 40% last September) and cite saving money (55%) as the top reason. In fact, asked how they would spend $500 found on the street today, consumers were significantly more inclined to say “I’d save it” this year (42%) compared to last year when only 26% said they’d save it.  The most popular way to spend found money last year was to pay monthly bills.

“Consistent with rising national savings rate, consumers are now prioritizing saving above reducing debt compared to last year— that may be due to the fact that some people have made headway in bringing their debt levels down,” added Codispoti.

About the American Express Spending & Saving Tracker

The American Express Spending & Saving Tracker research was completed online among a random sample of consumers aged 18 and over. The research sample consumers among the U.S. general population included two subgroups: the affluents (household income $100k+) and young professionals (under 30, college educated, household income $50k+).  Interviewing was conducted by Echo Research between August 17 and August 20. Overall, the results have a margin of error of +/- 2.2 (or 4.3 among affluents and among young professionals) percentage points at the 95% level of confidence.

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