With the financial collapse of 2008 behind us, and an economic recovery underway, buying trends for women have had their own kind of renaissance. Over the past five years, key fads have gone by the wayside (so long, diet foods) while other purchasing trends have taken center stage (hello, student loans!) "All put together, it looks like there's a bit more empowerment and independence for women," says Anita Gandhi, Vice President of Strategic Services at Experian Marketing Services, which provided the data.
Turns out, women are now spending more money on experiential events like going out to concerts or watching live performances, which Gandhi attributes to the increase in financial security. "In 2009, people didn't have a lot of discretionary spending,” she says, “and if they did they were more concerned about [whether] they were spending their money on frivolous things.”
So what day-to-day products are women ditching? Here's the breakdown:
1) Pantyhose of any kind
Sorry, Kate Middleton, not everyone is on board with your nude pantyhose trend. In the last five years, control-top pantyhose purchases have plummeted by 47%, regular pantyhose purchases have dropped 40%, and knee-high buying is down 59%. Women seem to be ditching hose in favor of tights-- those are up 18% since 2009. Because newsflash: black tights look great with anything.
2) Diet foods
We've seen some serious pushback against chemical-laden "diet foods" in the last five years: sales of sugar-free foods are down 15%, fat-free foods have dipped 17% (low-fat is down 13%,) and low-cholesterol foods are down 22%. But that doesn't mean women are any less health-conscious than before. Instead, the definition of "healthy" has evolved, says Gandhi. Now women are gravitating toward natural and organic foods, which have seen a 10% uptick in sales.
3) Diet cola
Remember when women downed diet sodas like water? Not anymore. Diet cola sales have plummeted 21% since 2009, and non-cola diet soda sales have dropped even more, by 26%. We hate to break it to you, Taylor Swift, but those numbers include Diet Coke. "People saw diet soda as a healthy alternative," says Gandhi. "You could drink soda [thinking] it doesn't have the calories and sugar." Yet in the past five years, we've seen an influx of information touting the "negative impacts of even diet soda, the chemicals in it," says Gandhi. And then there's the bad press brought about by anti-soda campaigns like the one Mayor Michael Bloomberg backed in New York City, which certainly didn't help soda sales.
4) Cigarettes and anti-smoking products
Both cigarettes and products that help people quit smoking (like patches or gum) have seen sales dip in the last five years: Cigarettes are down 13%, and anti-smoking products have sunk by 18%. Since fewer women smoke than men (only about 16% of American women smoke, compared to more than 20% of men) and since smoking overall has been on the decline since 2005, this shouldn't come as a huge surprise.
5) Hair products
Apparently the natural look is in, because women are buying less styling cream and fewer home perms and relaxers than they did in 2009. Both styling purchases have gone down by 14% in the last five years. Perhaps this is the resurgence of the boho-chic? Cue the flowing braids.
6) Business casual: blazers, skirts, slacks
Are offices getting more casual in the age of the hoodie-tech-genius? Maybe so, since purchases of business casual attire have dropped in the last five years. Women are buying fewer blazers and suit jackets (sales have plummeted by 32%,) skirts (down 18%) and business slacks (down 24%, but that doesn't include jeans, which, we hate to inform you, aren't business casual.)
On the other hand, dresses, scarves, and boots are on the upswing. Dress purchases are up 15%, boots are up 44%, and scarves are up 68% compared to five years ago. Moral of the story: scarves are back!
7) Non-scarf accessories: gloves, purses, watches, sunglasses
Women also seem to be spending less on accessories that aren't scarves. Glove purchases are down by 25%, watches are down 15%, and fashionable sunglasses (not Rx) are down 26%. Even purses saw a 14% drop. Did we mention that scarves are back?
Despite the runaway success of The Fault in Our Stars, book purchases are still down among women. Paperback, hardcover, and audiobook sales dropped 13% in the last five years.
So what are women doing with all the money they're saving on Diet Coke, pantyhose, cigarettes and suit jackets? Having a blast, apparently. Here are the products that female purchasers have gravitated to in the last five years:
1) Healthy moderation
Along with the 10% rise in natural and organic food purchases, women spent more money on gym memberships (up 26%) but also bought more chocolate (up 8%.)
2) Fun stuff
Concerts and music festival ticket purchases saw an 11% rise since 2009, while live dance performances had a 9% spike and comedy club tickets went up 8%. In other words, women just want to have some fun.
3) Big financial decisions
The majority of home equity loans, new car loans, and U.S. savings bonds are now owned by women (51%, 52% and 54%, respectively) and 59% of personal loans for education are made to women. Meanwhile, only 48% of women say they're the sole decision-maker when it comes to buying food products, and only 49% say they decide which household goods to buy, down from 51% and 52% in 2009. The result: women are making more of the big financial decisions, but fewer small, household ones.
So if you're planning on putting on your dress, tights, boots and scarf, munching some chocolate, checking on your home equity loan and heading to a music festival, you're right on trend.