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Some consumers are punting big purchases like pools and mattresses


Ordini’s Best Fiberglass Pools contractors work to install a pool, which the company says have dramatically increased in sales due to COVID-19 fears, in Gilbertsville, Pennsylvania, April 26, 2021.

Rachel Wisniewski | Reuters

Americans are kicking the can down the road on some more-costly, traditionally financed purchases as elevated inflation and interest rates bite.

Corporate executives this earnings season have lamented that customers are disinterested in shelling out on big-ticket items for their bedrooms, backyards and everywhere in between. It comes at a pivotal moment for the national economy: the average Joe has been contending with a double-whammy of high prices and borrowing costs, while economists and policymakers are trying to gauge the impact this has made.

This matters because it adds to a growing picture of consumer spending finally slowing down, as experts long anticipated. That means the Federal Reserve may get the sign it’s been waiting for that interest rate hikes have had their intended effects of tightening the economy, which could be good news for investors and consumers.

“The consumer’s purchasing power is limited,” Sleep Number CEO Shelly Ibach told analysts late last month. “As a result, consumers continue to scrutinize their spending and make near-term decisions based primarily on need, price and perceived value. And they are deferring higher-ticket, durable purchases.”

Ibach said the mattress industry is in a “historic recession,” with sales likely to continue to decline after two already tough years. The Minneapolis-based company lost more per share and recorded lower revenue than analysts polled by FactSet had anticipated in the first quarter.

Sleep Number isn’t alone. Executives across the consumer arena have been preparing for — and, in some cases, seeing — a slowdown over the last several months. Data from Prosper Insights & Analytics, a partner of the National Retail Federation, shows American adults have been increasingly delaying spending in areas like home improvement and electronics compared with before the pandemic.

“Consumers are still spending, but the sense that we get now is that they’re being a little bit more careful,” said Mark Mathews, the NRF’s executive director of research. “They’re making important choices in terms of how they spend. They’re very, very price sensitive, and, definitely, we are back into a situation where consumers are all about the deal.”

Multiple consumer headwinds

A shopper on the fence about if they feel like an expensive purchase is within budget — likely a more ubiquitous feeling now with hot inflation — would previously lean on paying over a longer period of time by using credit. But those options have fallen out of favor as interest rates rose.

Also, more credit card bills are delinquent, showing that the era of consumers being flush with cash from pandemic stimulus has come to an end. U.S. households are cumulatively more than $70 billion in debt after excess peaked above…



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Some consumers are punting big purchases like pools and mattresses

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