MONEY online shopping

The Reason You First Started Shopping at Amazon Is Disappearing

An employee pushes a cart past bays of merchandise as she processes customer orders at the Amazon.com Inc. fulfillment center in Poznan, Poland, on Friday, June 12, 2014.
Bartek Sadowski—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Amazon's reputation for low-price supremacy is called into question.

First and foremost in its rise to the top of retail, Amazon grabbed the attention of consumers simply by undercutting the competition on price. It started in the mid-’90s with books “priced close to cost, in order to increase sales volume,” as an in-depth New Yorker story about the company put it. In lieu of profits on book sales, the business plan was this: “After collecting data on millions of customers, Amazon could figure out how to sell everything else dirt cheap on the Internet.”

And that’s pretty much what Amazon did. The Jeff Bezos aphorism “Your margin is my opportunity” became the unofficial Amazon mantra, and the world’s biggest e-retailer competed ruthlessly on price. The advent of “showrooming”—in which shoppers scoped out merchandise in stores, then whipped out smartphones to see how much they’d save by purchasing it at Amazon—hammered home the idea that saving money was the biggest reason to do business with the world’s largest e-retailer.

Why, then, does it seem that more and more consumers are grumbling that Amazon’s prices aren’t that cheap lately? In a thread on Reddit posted this week that’s gathering a lot of attention, the initial commenter griped about Amazon’s “pricing getting a little ridiculous,” explaining, “Most of the stuff I’m trying to buy, from clothes to food, is way overpriced, sometimes marked up 100%.”

Many of the 400+ comments that followed were in agreement that Amazon’s prices aren’t as cheap as they used to be. What’s especially frustrating is that shoppers routinely see that prices for many items are higher if they qualify for free two-day delivery via Amazon Prime, which costs $99 per year. So in one way or another, consumers are getting the strong impression that shopping at Amazon isn’t quite the savings proposition it once was.

This is hardly the first time that Amazon’s status as the retail world’s low-cost leader has come into question. During the 2014 winter holiday season, Amazon’s online customer satisfaction ratings dropped significantly, and the overwhelming reason cited for the decrease is that pricing didn’t meet up with consumer expectations. In many instances, Walmart had cheaper prices than Amazon.

Research released just after the holidays revealed some of the strategies behind Amazon prices: While the e-commerce giant tended to have the cheapest prices on the most popular items, prices for many other goods were far higher than what shoppers might find at Walmart and other retailers. What Amazon appears to be hoping is that, after seeing low prices on one or two popular items, customers are lulled into believing that the site has the cheapest prices for everything—and this is just not the case.

Based on the recent discussion at Reddit, though, more and more consumers are becoming aware that the competition may be able to beat Amazon on price. This could be a huge problem for Amazon—after all, low prices were what originally attracted most people to the site—but at the same time, it seems as if shoppers’ main reason(s) for using Amazon are shifting.

Instead of always having the rock-bottom cheapest prices, Amazon now reliably has prices that are decent, if not the absolute lowest available. What keeps Amazon’s sales humming along, then, is that it’s convenient. The site that used to be all about saving money is now the Internet shopper’s “prime”—pun intended—resource for saving time.

The importance of Amazon Prime cannot be understated in Amazon’s quest to increase profits. Early on, Amazon discovered that Prime subscribers overwhelmingly made their online purchases via Amazon, and therefore they stopped shopping elsewhere. Naturally, a customer’s Amazon purchases skyrocket once he or she is signed up for Prime. With the assurance of free two-day shipping on most purchases, and the assumptions that Amazon’s prices are at least in the same ballpark as the competition, it might seem unnecessary for a Prime member to bother taking the time to shop around for a better deal.

What seems to be happening is that as more customers automatically, almost unconsciously turn to Amazon out of habit, convenience, and the desire to get the most out of one’s $99 Prime membership, the door has opened and it has become easier for Amazon to raise prices.

When you look at it this way, that “free” shipping that comes with Amazon Prime might not seem quite so free.

Read next: 5 Ways That Amazon Is Still Far Superior to New Upstart Jet.com

MONEY deals

This Week’s Best Deals: Huge Discounts on Toys, Tires, and Shoes

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David Ryder—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Target has some especially amazing deals this week.

The best bargains we’ve found this week can help you prepare your wardrobe and car for the fall and (yikes!) winter ahead, or perhaps simply aid in your enjoyment of the last days of summer.

Get Clearance Sale Toys
Target is cutting up to 70% off a selection of clearance toys right now. Plus, get an extra 20% off via coupon code “TOYS20” at checkout. That’s the biggest discount we’ve seen on these items at Target this year. Shipping starts at $4.99, but orders of $25 or more include free shipping. (Some items qualify for in-store pickup too.) Deal ends August 29.

A few best bets, with prices after the coupon code discount, include the Sofia the First Magical Talking Light-Up Amulet for $4.53 (low by $8), and the Spin Master Air Hogs Sharpshooter R/C Helicopter for $22.38 ($18 off).

Winterize Your Car
Winter’s coming, but that doesn’t have to mean havoc for your car. At TireRack, you can get a set of four General Altimax Arctic or Altimax Arctic LT Tires starting at just $104 total after rebates. Shipping costs extra ($53), and when everything is added up it’s $95 less than the previous best price we’ve ever seen. These tires are designed to provide extra traction at low temperatures and are molded to accommodate the use of optional metal studs. Deal ends September 28.

To get this deal, search for “Altimax Arctic” or “Altimax Arctic LT,” then select your tire size under the “Sizes” tab. Finally, redeem these $50 and $50 mail-in rebates. For more tips on how to maintain your car, check out our guide to simple auto repairs that save money.

Shoes at Target from $6
Need new back-to-school shoes for the little ones, or perhaps some new fall fashions for yourself? Target isn’t just discounting toys this week, but shoes as well, with up to 50% off clearance shoes for men, women, and kids. Even better, take an extra 25% off via coupon code “SHOEBLOWOUT.” Shipping starts at $4.99, but orders of $25 or more include free shipping. (In-store pickup is also available on select items.) Deal ends August 29.

Some choice options include the Mossimo Supply Co. Women’s Tameka Elastic Quarter Strap Sandals for $6.03 ($16 off), and the Black Label by L.B. Evans Men’s Warrick Boots for $36.73 ($33 off). For more apparel and back-to-school sales, check out our guide to what to expect this Labor Day.

12-Piece Knife Set for $18
Anytime is a good time to stock up on kitchen essentials, like this Cuisinart Advantage 12-Piece Knife Set from BuyDig for $19.99. Coupon code “CHEFLABOR10″ cuts the price to $17.99. With free shipping, that’s the lowest total price we could find. The set features some of the most important knives in any chef’s collection, including 8″ chef, slicing, and serrated bread knives, a 7″ Santoku, 6.5″ utility knife, 3.5” paring knife, and six color-matched blade guards. Offer ends September 7.

Amazing bargains pop up at any given moment, so consider signing up for a daily email digest from DealNews to have the best offers sent directly to your inbox.

MONEY Shopping

The Eye-Popping Numbers Behind Back-to-School Spending

Americans spend how much? Click through the gallery to find out—and see where all that money goes.

MONEY deals

This Week’s Best Deals: Huge Discounts on Coffee, Running Shoes

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Joe Raedle—Getty Images

Keurig, Nike, and Samsung have sales that got our attention.

Whether you want to cool your house on a budget, purchase some new footwear on the cheap, or score the latest tech, here are the best bargains this week:

Clearance Sales on A/C Units

The weather might still be sweltering, but now that August is coming to a close, end-of-season clearance sales are springing up. And that means it’s time to save big on seasonal items that stores want to unload, like air conditioners. This Quirky + GE 8,000-BTU air conditioner, for instance, costs $149 with free shipping. That’s a savings of $50 and one of the cheapest AC units around. The unit isn’t just cheap, but also technologically advanced. The “smart” unit can be controlled by a smartphone app, and can even power-on based on your proximity to your home.

Keurig’s Best Sale of the Year

Keep caffeinated at the lowest price possible while Keurig slashes 40% off select K-Cups via coupon code “40DEAL.” (Eligible K-Cups are marked at the bottom of the product page.) Plus, the “CAREFREE” coupon code bags free shipping, saving you an additional $7. Combined, these are the best discounts of the year from Keurig, making it easy to stock up on coffee, or to just buy one or two packages since you don’t have to worry about delivery fees. Deal ends September 26.

First Deal on Samsung’s New Flagship Phones

The latest and greatest phones from Samsung might not be on shelves just yet, but you can already get an amazing deal on both the Samsung Galaxy Note5 and the Samsung Galaxy S6. If you preorder these phones at Best Buy, you’ll receive a free Samsung wireless charger, which is a $39 value. If you also trade in a working phone at the same time, you’ll get a $200 Best Buy gift card as well. (Click here for details.) These phones are due for release on August 21, but the deal lasts through August 29.

Up to 55% Off Nike and Sperry

Whether you want to relax or be active, there’s a clearance shoe sale this week that will work for you. Fans of Sperry Top-Sider’s casual, preppy styles can rejoice while the store takes an extra 30% off clearance items via coupon code “EXTRA30.” Since items are already marked up to 50% off and include free shipping, it’s one of the best sales we’ve ever seen from Sperry. This deal ends August 23.

If boat shoes are a little too country club for your taste, then dig into Nike’s sale instead! The athletic brand takes up to 55% off both shoes and clothing in its clearance section, and now coupon code “BACK2SPORT” cuts an extra 20% off. Plus, Nike+ members get free shipping, no minimum purchase required. (Not a member? It’s free to sign up.) This is also one of the best sales we’ve seen from Nike, too. Not sure what sneakers to get? Check out this guide to find the right athletic shoes for you.

Amazing bargains pop up at any given moment, so consider signing up for a daily email digest from DealNews to have the best offers sent directly to your inbox.

MONEY deals

2 Amazingly Simple Tips for Cheap and Lazy Back to School Shoppers

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Patrick T. Fallon—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Parents grasp the idea that only suckers pay full price.

Over the past decade, the amount of money parents spend during back-to-school shopping season has increased a hefty 42%, according to National Retail Federation data. But this year, parents seem to have hit their limit.

The average household with school-age kids expects to spend $630 during back-to-school season, down from $669 a year ago. Probably the most common way to save is by shopping strategically and snatching up good deals as they arise. Retailers like Office Depot, Staples, and Walmart roll out new promotions and discounts once a week, if not more frequently, and loss-leader deals like notebooks for 25¢ or even 1¢, potentially saving big bucks for families. Sales tax holidays offered around the country in July and August shave a few percent off the household back-to-school budget as well.

Here are two increasingly popular back-to-school saving strategies that require even less—perhaps no—effort on the behalf of parents.

Procrastinate. The number of parents who wait until after the school year has started to complete back-to-school shopping roundups is on the rise, and for good reason. According to a Deloitte survey, 31% of parents plan on doing some or all of their back-to-school shopping once their kids are already back in school. That represents a 5% increase over 2014.

To some extent, the increase appears to be part of a general trend of procrastination, laziness, and/or refusing to admit that summer is coming to a close. The National Retail Federation similarly noted a rise in parents saying they’ll shop at the last minute (one to two weeks before school), from 25% last year to over 30% this year.

But consciously or not, there’s some strategy behind the refusal to buy in advance: By doing so, not only do parents get to skip out on the chore of browsing weekly brochures and trying to figure out when to buy protractors, glue, and whatnot, but they also get to benefit from broad clearance sales. Around the time Labor Day hits, after all, retailers resort to deep discounting to empty the aisles of back-to-school items and make way for Halloween and (groan) Christmas merchandise.

Do nothing whatsoever. This “tactic” is even easier than procrastinating and buying everything on discount in one fell swoop after school starts. This approach—essentially doing zilch and getting by with what you already have on hand—is being embraced by more parents as well.

According to the same Deloitte research, since 2011 there has been a 13% increase in parents adopting the anti-consumer strategy: “Our household will reuse last year’s school items rather than buying new.”

Again, going this way yields the dual reward of a) requiring minimal effort; and b) saving money. It also plain makes a lot of sense, especially in light of the data noting that families have been spending more and more on back-to-school items—so, in theory at least, households should have quite a backlog of products to use, or reuse as it were. American households are generally pretty cluttered with stuff as well, and somewhere in the mix parents know there are probably more than enough perfectly good supplies and clothes for their kids to start the school year.

MONEY online shopping

5 Companies That Happily Lose Money to Get Your Business

Business models might be brilliant, crazy, or both—and can save you big money.

Handy workery
courtesy Handy

Losing money, it seems, is a great business model. In 2011, it was reported that Amazon lost $11 per customer on the annual shipping charges incurred by each Amazon Prime subscriber. For that matter, Amazon has famously lost money for much of its existence through exceptionally low prices, fast and (often) free shipping, and constantly expanding the business into new spheres. Yet experiments like Prime, which has come to be seen as a huge, all-powerful moneymaker, have paid off handsomely: The e-retailer is now worth more than Walmart.

Naturally, the cult of Amazon and its lose-money-to-make-money model has inspired legions of followers. As New York Times columnist Farhad Manjoo put it, “giving away real money is a key part of business” for startups like Jet.com, which is using hundreds of millions of dollars in funding to defray the costs involved with marketing a new business and offering the lowest prices on the web.

Of course, one hopes the plan isn’t to simply keep losing money indefinitely. The long-term goal of losing money is to make money by attracting bajillions of customers and perhaps easing back a bit on the discounts once a critical mass has been converted as fans of the company.

At least in the early days, when these businesses are desperate to attract new customers and the discounts remain extraordinary, “consumers could be in for a boon,” according to Manjoo. “After all, from the perspective of customers, what’s so bad about companies giving away their venture-funneled cash?”

We’re certainly not going to complain. Here are five businesses that’ll essentially pass along some of their funding cash to you, in the form of cheap prices on goods and services, so long as you become a customer.

Read next: 10 Things Millennials Buy More Often Than Other Generations

 

  • Jet

    Jet.com
    David Solodukho

    The new all-purpose members-only shopping site is being presented to the masses as a mashup of Amazon Prime and Costco, and a competitor to both as well. Jet promises prices that are 10% to 15% cheaper than anywhere else online, and it boosts shopper orders by using a unique algorithm that offers deeper discounts with every purchase. To get these great prices, customers must pay Jet’s annual $50 membership fee—which is where the company plans on making its money.

    But Jet admits it won’t make a profit for at least five years. In the meantime, it loses money on each order placed by many—if not most—members, who have likely signed up for three-month free trial subscriptions. As the Wall Street Journal noted, in some cases Jet is actually purchasing items from other retailers (like Walmart) to complete orders placed by Jet members. And it’s losing a ton of cash in the process.

  • Groupon

    Papa John's Pizza in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
    Betty LaRue—Alamy

    Groupon helped bring the concept of loss leaders to Main Street businesses all over America. Restaurants, spas, and what have you were encouraged to offer dirt-cheap daily deals that might lose money when the customer redeems the promotion, but theoretically help the business in the long run when the customer comes back later and pays full price. Groupon fired founder and CEO Andrew Mason in 2013, and as the company’s business model has evolved, its market value has gone from $6 billion to $1 billion and back up to $5 billion. And over the years, Groupon has spent a fortune in marketing and subsidies to acquire and keep subscribers.

    Groupon’s latest discount product is Groupon To Go, a food takeout and delivery service that just launched in Chicago and will expand to Boston and Austin this fall. To attract customers in the space already crowded with food-order specialists like Seamless and Eat24, Groupon To Go is indefinitely giving a flat 10% off orders at chains like Papa John’s, Subway, and Quiznos. These and all restaurants have pretty small profit margins to begin with, so a flat 10% off is substantial. Groupon gets a commission for each order placed, but it’s hard to see how the daily deal purveyor or the restaurants wind up actually making money in the big picture.

  • Postmates

    A bag of food from McDonald's ordered through the Postmates service next to a Postmates delivery bag.
    Chandice Choi—AP

    The courier service, which uses independent workers to offer ultra-fast same-day delivery on everything from hamburgers to sneakers, normally charges at least $5 for a pickup and dropoff, and a $20 delivery fee isn’t unheard of. To make its service an even better value, Postmates is planning on offering delivery for just $1 on some orders. How can it pull that off? Well, the firm recently raised $80 million more in funding, and it’ll use some of that money to subsidize the cost of $1 deliveries.

  • Luxe

    Luxe App on iphone
    courtesy Luxe

    Offered in seven big cities around the U.S., Luxe is a valet service that’ll meet you at a specified location, take the keys, and park your car for you. Not only does it eliminate the hassle of finding a parking spot, but using Luxe or a similar services like Zirx usually costs less than putting the vehicle in a private lot. Again, it’s funding, like the $30 million raised by Zirx, that allows these startups to charge about $15 per day for their services—and to not have to worry about making profits for quite some time.

  • Handy

    Handy workery
    courtesy Handy

    In addition to cleaning services, Handy allows customers to order someone over to fix a faucet, paint a room, and even change a light bulb. Its core product, home cleaning, usually costs $54 for a two-hour booking. But to attract new customers, Handy rolls out discounts that bring the rate down to $29 or even $19. Still, Handy is quick to point out that it has been easing off heavy discounting, and that in most instances the business model works even if a customer books only once.

    “You’re absolutely right that we don’t make money on certain customers on Day 1, but on the average customer, on Day 1, we make money,” Oisin Hanrahan, the co-founder and chief executive of Handy, explained to the New York Times.

MONEY money well spent

How a $300 Sewing Machine Gave Me 30 Years of Warmth

illustration of woman using sewing machine to make quilt
Gary Musgrave

My simple and reliable machine always did what I needed, so I saw no reason to upgrade to a fancier new model.

I learned to sew in high school, but I’d barely touched a needle and thread by the time I landed in Germany in 1983 as a 24-year-old American soldier. One day while shopping on the military base, I saw a Pfaff sewing machine for $300, almost half of a month’s pay. I decided on the spot to splurge. I hoped to take lessons from my grandmother, an avid quilter, when I returned to the States. Besides, I was getting married, and I figured a sewing machine might come in handy.

My husband was also a soldier, and when our first child was born in 1986, I left the Army to be a stay-at-home mom. Over the next eight years, whenever my husband received orders to a new duty station, the sewing machine shuttled along with us. With the arrival of two more babies, however, sewing took a backseat to motherhood.

It wasn’t until the summer of 1992 that I was able to visit my grandmother in Kentucky for a few days. After receiving those long-delayed lessons, I was confident enough to attempt my first quilt—an anniversary gift for my sister and brother-in-law. I loved turning a pile of fabric pieces into something beautiful and useful. Over the next few years, I made three more quilts as wedding gifts for friends.

Finally, after I had given away four quilts, it was time to keep one at home. I turned my husband’s well-worn rugby T-shirts into a quilt for his 60th birthday.

Whenever I purchased quilting material, I would admire the latest sewing machines in the fabric stores. All the fancy features were mind-boggling—as were the price tags. But my simple and reliable machine did what I needed, so I saw no reason to upgrade.

My frugal grandmother certainly would have approved. Unfortunately, she passed away, at 90, before I could get back to Kentucky to share my quilting stories with her. My family and I still wrap ourselves in her quilts on cold nights in Georgia, just as we did in Germany, New Hampshire, and all the other places we’ve lived. My next quilt—for me this time—is already in progress. More than 30 years ago, I invested $300 in a sewing machine that is still paying dividends of beauty, love—and warmth.

Cindy Dunn is the founder of the Foreign Language Library Online . She lives in Columbus, Ga.

Do you have a purchase you consider Money Well Spent? Email us about it and what it means to you at wellspent@moneymail.com.

MONEY Shopping

10 Things Millennials Buy Far More Often Than Everyone Else

For real, snakes?

Roughly a year ago, we at MONEY rounded up a fun list of 10 things millennials won’t spend money on—at least not to the same degree as older generations. Cars, cable TV, and Costco were all on the list, as were houses. A freshly released Pew Research Center study indicates that a larger-than-expected percentage of young people are still living with their parents rather than moving out and perhaps buying a place of their own.

Yes, millennials are stingy when it comes to spending in certain categories. Yet even as they aren’t following in the footsteps of their consumer forebears in terms of embracing big-ticket items like houses and cars, millennials spend far more freely on certain other items compared to older generations. Here are 10 things they buy more often—sometimes a lot more often—than Gen Xers or Baby Boomers, including a few big surprises.

  • Gas Station Food

    Customers line up for their free Slurpees in a 7-Eleven store in New York
    Richard Levine—Alamy

    Millennials have been referred to as the grab-and-go generation, with 29% saying that they often purchase food and drink while on the run, compared with 19% of consumers overall. You might think that Chipotle or perhaps Starbucks would be the biggest beneficiary of this habit. But according to the NPD Group, Gen Y restaurant visits are actually on the decline, particularly among older millennials who are more likely to have families. What’s more, in terms of drawing millennial food and beverage visits, the fast-casual segment is handily beaten by an under-the-radar retail category: the gas station.

    Whereas fast-casual accounted for 6.1% of millennial food and beverage stops in 2014, NPD researchers point out that 11.4% of such visits took place at convenience stores like 7-Eleven, Wawa, Cumberland Farms, and Sheetz, where the hot to-go offerings include salads, wraps, healthy(ish) sandwiches, pizza, and wings alongside old standards like hot dogs and microwaveable burritos. Some even have espresso and smoothie bars, which is probably news to most older folks. “If you’re 50 or over, you still think the convenience store is primarily a gas station,” the NPD Group’s Harry Balzer explained to USA Today.

  • Same-Day Delivery

    FedEx Same Day delivery truck
    courtesy FedEx

    Patience is not exactly a virtue among consumers who grew up with smartphones and social media. Consumer psychologist Kit Yarrow sums up this mindset as “I want what I want, when I want it,” and points to a Shop.org survey indicating that millennials have been twice as likely as other generations to pay extra for same-day delivery of online purchases.

    Earlier this year, the New York Times took note of a surge in same-day delivery, in particular among services supplying alcohol directly to the customer’s door. “It has not hurt that millennials, who are used to ordering food for delivery on their smartphones, have come of legal drinking age,” the Times noted.

  • Hot Sauce

    Sriracha bottles on shelf
    Patti McConville—Alamy

    Sriracha is everywhere. It is spicing up potato chips and croutons, adding some extra kick to Heinz ketchup, and offering a strange twist at Pizza Hut. Heck, it’s even in beer. And the overwhelming reason Sriracha is ubiquitous is that it’s evolved into the go-to condiment of the all-important millennial demographic. More than half of American households now have hot sauce on hand. Sriracha specifically is stocked in 9% of them—and in 16% of households headed by someone under age 35.

    The hot sauce craze has translated to a constantly changing roster of ultra-spicy items on fast food menus. Part of the reason that millennials prefer spicier foods is that they were exposed to different tastes at fairly young ages. “Millennials like hot, spicy foods because of their experience with more ethnic foods, like Hispanic and Asian,” said Kelly Weikel, senior consumer research manager at Technomic.

  • Snakes

    snake collar
    Luca Gavagna—Getty Images/iStockphoto

    This past spring, an odd extension for Google Chrome was desisnged to allow users to sub the phrase “snake people” in the place of “millennials” on screens. It was a fun goof that now seems like ancient history. But it turns out that millennials really are snake people, in the sense that they have more interest than other generations in buying and keeping snakes—and all reptiles—as pets.

    “This age group, 15-35 years old, is the generation that is most active in reptile keeping and searching for related material online,” Keith Morris, national sales manager for the reptile product site ZooMed.com, told Pet Age last summer. Data collected by Pet Age also indicates millennials are more willing to splurge on their pets with luxuries like custom beds: 76% said they’d be likely to splurge on pets rather than themselves, compared with just 50% of Baby Boomers. Yet another survey indicated that millennials are far more interested than Boomers and Gen Xers in pet healthcare as a job benefit. So the big takeaway is: Millennials really love pets in all shapes, sizes, and species.

  • Athleisure

    Yoga Pants
    Kirsten Dayton—Alamy

    The demographic that overwhelmingly gets the credit for yoga pants replacing jeans as the mainstream go-to casual bottom of choice (and even coming to be seen as legitimate work clothes at the office) is of course the millennial generation. Yoga pants, hoodies, sweatpants, and other leggings are lumped into the “athleisure” or “leisurewear” clothing category, which has been most warmly embraced by millennials—and in turn inspired retailers ranging from Ann Taylor to the Gap to Dick’s Sporting Goods to ramp up their selections of women’s exercise wear that’s not necessarily for exercise.

    “When I look at athleisure bottom business—the yoga pant, sweat pant, sweat short—it has displaced the jean business one to one,” NPD Group retail analyst Marshal Cohen said recently. Sales of such clothing rose 13% during a recent 12-month span, and now represent roughly 17% of the entire clothing market, according to the market research firm. “For every jean we are not selling or used to sell we are selling an athleisure bottom. It has become as important to the market as denim would be.”

    Side note: Yoga pants aren’t the only skin-tight garment getting a boost from millennials. During the 12-month period that ended in May, spending on women’s tights was up 24% among millennials, who now account for 45% of all sales in the category.

  • Organic Food

    Organic produce sections in The Whole Foods Market in Willowbrook, Illinois
    Jeff Haynes—AFP/Getty Images

    According to a Gallup poll conducted last summer, 45% of Americans actively seek out organic foods to include in their diets. Millennials are a lot more likely than average to feel that it’s important to go organic, however, so the preferences of younger consumers skew the overall average up. Whereas only 33% of Americans age 65 and older actively try to include organic foods in their diets, 53% of Americans ages 18 to 29 do so.

  • Tattoos & Piercings

    Millennial with the words "Hustle" and "Money" tattooed on each leg using his iPhone
    Petri Artturi Asikainen—Getty Images

    It’s been estimated that 20% of Americans—and nearly 40% of millennials—have at least one tattoo. Surveys conducted for Pew Research several years ago indicated that about 30% of millennials had piercings somewhere other than their ears, which is six times higher than older Americans.

    Despite the growing acceptance of tattoos simply by way of them becoming mainstream, millennials remain somewhat cautious about getting one because it could hurt their chances of being hired. Or at least they’re careful when deciding the placement of a tattoo. In a recent University of Tampa poll, 86% of students said that having a visible tattoo would hurt one’s chances of getting a job. It’s understandable, then, that 70% of millennial workers with tattoos say they hide their ink from the boss.

  • Energy Drinks

    Monster brand energy drinks on sale in a convenience store in New York
    Richard Levine—Alamy

    American parents, likely exhausted by nighttime feedings, hectic schedules, and such, understandably feel the need to resort to energy drinks. A recent Mintel survey shows that 58% of U.S. households with children consume Red Bull, Monster, or other energy drinks, compared to just 27% of households without kids.

    Meanwhile, millennials are even more likely than parents in general to throw back energy drinks: 64% of millennials consume them regularly, and 29% of older millennials (ages 27 to 37, who are more likely to be parents themselves) say they’ve increased the number of energy drinks they consume in recent months.

  • Donations at the Cash Register

    signing electronic bill at register
    Juan Monino—Getty Images

    Some shoppers feel annoyed and put on the spot when a store clerk asks if they’d like to make a charitable donation while ringing up a purchase at the cash register. This isn’t the case with the typical millennial, however.

    According to a report from the consultancy firm the Good Scout Group, of all generations “Gen Y likes being asked to give to charity at the register the most.” What’s more, millennials say that they donate at store cash registers more often than any other generation, and they also felt “most positively about charities and retailers once they gave.”

  • Craft Booze

    Growlers on a table outside Faction Beer Brewery, Alameda, California
    Silicon Valley Stock—Alamy

    More so than other generations, millennials have demonstrated a distaste for mass-market beers and spirits—and a preference for the pricier small-batch booze. In one survey, 43% of millennials say craft beer tastes better than mainstream brews, compared to less than one-third of Baby Boomers. As millennials have grown up and more and more have crossed the age of 21, craft beer sales have soared at the same time that mass-market brands like Budweiser and Miller have suffered. A Nielsen poll showed that 15% of millennials’ beer money goes to the craft segment, which is impressive considering the limited buying power of this college-age demographic. By comparison, craft brews account for less than 10% of money spent on beer by Gen X and Baby Boomers.

    Millennials are also given an outsize share of the credit for the boom in craft spirits over household brands handled by the big distributors. As with craft beer, researchers say that millennials like craft liquors partly because it’s easier to connect to the back story of the beverages, and there’s an air of “inclusive exclusivity” and uniqueness about them. For that matter, millennials seem to care more in general about liquor brands. In one survey, 64% of millennials said that including the brand of spirit in a menu cocktail description was important or very important, compared to 55% of Gen Xers and 50% of Baby Boomers who felt that way.

MONEY Shopping

Where to Find the Best Back to School Deals Right Now

150727_EM_BTSShopping
Richard B. Levine—Newscom

Here are the six places you should shop.

Back-to-school shopping season is already in full swing. Or at least the back-to-school promotional deals are. The circulars from this week’s Sunday newspapers were full of retailers pushing back-to-school merchandise in the hopes of beating the competition to families’ limited school supply dollars.

As for shoppers themselves, there seems to be no rush to stock up for a school year that isn’t starting for a few weeks. In a new survey conducted by Deloitte, 38% of parents said back-to-school shopping is less important than it’s been in the past because they tend to stock up on needed supplies throughout the year. What’s more, 31% say they’ll complete back-to-school shopping after the school year begins, up 5% over last year.

More parents are also reusing last year’s school supplies to save money: 39% said they’ll do so in 2015, up from just 26% in 2011. That may partly explain how families expect to scale back on overall back-to-school spending this year. According to National Retail Federation data, the average family with a child in grades K-12 will spend $630 this season, down 6% from a year ago. The number of families that will shop last minute—a week or two before the first day—rose too, from 25% to 30%.

Perhaps parents are catching on to how back-to-school sales stretch on for weeks, sometimes even months, so there’s no need to hurry. Shoppers can also count on some of the best back-to-school sales popping up at the last minute, with big discounts on all manner of school supplies appearing during Labor Day sales.

All that said, now is a great time to pick and choose select bargains. Bear in mind that not every “sale” is worth your while. Target, for instance, is promoting a “Temp Price Cut” on 70-page Mead notebooks that normally cost $1. The “special” sale brings the price down to 99¢, for a discount of … a whopping single penny. We found the deals from the six retailers below far more enticing.

Apple: In addition to its usual back-to-school discounts of $20 to $200 off laptops, tablets, and desktops, Apple is also including an instant credit for a pair of Beats headphones at no extra charge with certain purchases. A long list of terms and conditions apply that specify which purchases include the free set of headphones (basically, MacBooks and iMacs) and who is eligible for the discounts (college students and educators). The discounts are in effect right now online and at Apple Stores; the free headphones offer is valid now in Apple Stores but is available for online purchases only from August 6 to September 18.

CVS: Among other deals, many Sharpie, Bic, and Papermate pens are available on a buy-one-get-one-50%-off basis at CVS locations.

Office Depot: In addition to the usual coupons and sales on electronics and classic school supplies, Office Depot is offering 20% to 50% off cleaning supplies—parents are often asked to supply hand sanitizers and tissues for classrooms—and a special promotion knocks an extra $20 off qualifying online purchases of at least $125, and $40 off purchases of $250 or more.

Staples: The sub-$1 deals will probably grab your attention first. One-subject notebooks, pencil sharpeners, and a 12-pack of erasers are each priced at just 25¢, while a 100-pack of index cards is 47¢, a 12-pack of #2 pencils is 68¢, and a 10-pack of Crayola markers is 97¢. Tons of other sale items amount to roughly 50% off list prices, while various coupons offer things like 25% back in store rewards for all in-store purchases and a ream of multipurpose paper for only 1¢.

Walgreens: The Deal of the Week is 10¢ for two-pocket paper folders. Two-packs of Sharpies and various other school supplies are on sale for 99¢, while notebooks and Crayola art supplies are priced at buy-one-get-one-50%-off and backpacks are buy-one-get-one-free. In most cases, a Walgreens loyalty card is required for discounts.

Walmart: Among Walmart’s best back-to-school deals are school uniforms starting at just just $4.47 apiece and bulk-discount bundles of, say, three boxes of 12 Bic pens each for $4.53.

MONEY online shopping

Amazon Flies Higher Than Ever One Year After Epic Flop

Jeff Bezos, chief executive officer of Amazon.com Inc., unveils the Fire Phone during an event at Fremont Studios in Seattle, Washington, U.S., on Wednesday, June 18, 2014.
Mike Kane—Bloomberg via Getty Images Jeff Bezos, chief executive officer of Amazon.com Inc., unveils the Fire Phone on June 18, 2014.

The Fire Phone is old news—exactly like Amazon wants.

Amazon has arguably never been hotter. After posting a surprise profit for the quarter ending June 30, the company’s stock surged 20% overnight on Thursday, resulting in the world’s largest e-retailer being worth more than Walmart. The impressive sales figures don’t even factor in last week’s Prime Day, the manufactured holiday that Amazon created to juice sales in the middle of summer that wound up surpassing Black Friday in terms of orders and purchases.

What’s interesting is that almost exactly one year before Amazon hit its current peak, it offered up a product for sale that is seen as one of its biggest misfires. The Amazon Fire Phone officially went on sale on July 25, 2014. It was initially offered only combined with a two-year AT&T wireless contract at a subsidized price of $199 to $299.

Even before the phone hit the market, critics bashed it as “uninspired” and “just too expensive.” The smartphone’s unique features—a 3-D screen and a shopping-assistance tool called Firefly—were deemed largely to be gimmicks that few people wanted, let alone needed. Critics also hated the Fire Phone’s limited access to apps, and how the device’s overarching purpose seemed to focus almost exclusively on getting the user to buy stuff at Amazon.

Less than two months after first going on sale, Amazon’s phone was discounted to 99¢, one of the fastest price drops ever. By December, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos was referring to the phone as a “bold bet” that just didn’t work out, as the company took a $170 million writedown related to the flop.

How could Amazon have miscalculated so badly on the Fire Phone? And how did the company wind up shrugging off the failure and having a gangbusters 2015 anyway?

An in-depth CNET explores just this territory, and the conclusions it reaches are that even as most Fire Phone early adopters regretted their purchases and felt burned, plenty of them still shop at Amazon and pay $99 annually for Prime memberships. One of the prime (ha-ha) reasons for Amazon getting into the smartphone market was to boost sales via Amazon and Prime subscriptions. Fire Phone owners received one year of Prime membership free with their purchase, and the Firefly scanning feature made it exceptionally easy to buy almost anything via Amazon, in mere seconds.

Amazon Prime members spend far more at Amazon than nonmembers, so it makes sense that the company has been pushing Prime harder than ever over the last year. Among the strategies employed to boost Prime subscriptions in the months after the Fire Phone debuted:

• Heavily discounting Kindle and Fire tablets, which automatically come with free Prime trial subscriptions—the majority of which seem to turn into paid Prime subscriptions.

• Dropping the annual price of Prime to $72 in January to celebrate the Golden Globe nominations for “Transparent,” the show starring Jeffrey Tambor that can only be streamed via Prime.

• Producing original movies that can only be seen with Prime, adding to the value of the service.

• Hosting Prime Day sales on July 15, which were available only to Prime subscribers, thereby forcing anyone who wanted in on the deals to sign up for free trial memberships, which Amazon hopes will turn into paid memberships.

While Amazon declared Prime Day a rip-roaring success that greatly increased sales and boosted Prime membership, the reviews in social media and consumer circles were mixed at best. Many thought that Walmart actually won the day because it hadn’t overhyped and underdelivered on the deals like Amazon had.

Even if the consensus is that Amazon hyped Prime Day too much, it pales in comparison to how overhyped and underwhelming consumers deemed the Fire Phone to be. Amazon recently strongly hinted Prime Day would become an annual event, which didn’t come as much of a surprise. Meanwhile, if Jeff Bezos suddenly announced Amazon was introducing a new Fire Phone to the market, that would be viewed not just as a bold bet, but a shocking one.

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