Shoppers Fixated with Discounts Pose Big Worry for Stores

Shoppers who got addicted to sales during the last recession have more tools than ever to cross-check prices and find bargains, creating a race to the bottom -- particularly on clothes.

While retailers are trying to offer more exclusive products and improve the experience shoppers have in stores, online leader Amazon is expanding quickly into apparel, creating more discounting wars. Off-price stores and new discount chains keep the pressure on.

"There is not a lot that I would pay full price for," said Sara Scoggins, a 30-year-old Los Angeles resident who uses apps like Hafta Have for scanning items and tracking deals and Honey for coupons and promo codes. "There is always a deal. You are a sucker not to get a deal."

The bargain-hunting started in earnest during the Great Recession, when stores plied shoppers with discounts upon discounts to rid themselves of mounds of merchandise after consumer spending tanked. But even as the economy has perked up, Americans haven't let go of the search for deals.

"We've conditioned consumers especially coming out of the recession for promotions and discounting," said Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist at the National Retail Federation trade group.

Shoppers have time and technology on their side. An ever-growing number of apps, websites and browser extensions will search for shipping deals, sales and coupons. And for some shoppers, there's a thrill in outwitting the stores.

Marc Phillips, 26, who works in digital strategies and lives in Manhattan, says he mostly buys clothes at the end of the season and shops at outlets like Nordstrom Rack.

"I have found some nice deals, like nice designer names," he said. "I consider myself brand-savvy and price-savvy. I understand the types of tricks that stores play."

The cycle feeds itself. People got used to getting great deals, retailers who tried to raise prices saw sales suffer, and shoppers...

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