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New Tricks Break Down 'Buyers' Remorse'

New Tricks Break Down 'Buyers' Remorse'

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It's no secret that during the year-long recession in the U.S. economy, consumers' discretionary spending on nonessential items has ground to, if not a halt, then a dribble. It used to be about keeping up with the Joneses, a retail-industry expert told the Wall Street Journal. Now it's about outsaving the Joneses.

What some call "shoppers' remorse," or "luxury shame" has spoiled

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the good feelings consumers usually got when they bought nice things. This has prompted even the wealthy, some of whom took a particularly painful hit when stock prices tanked, to hold tight to their wallets.

So, the Journal reports, some luxury brands are trying new marketing tactics to, as the newspaper puts it, push away the guilt and reboot consumers' desire to spend. Retailers are offering so-called "special experiences" to ease customers' guilt.

Experiences like private, online sales of high-end merchandise to make buyers feel privileged and special. Or attaching a charitable component: If you donate to a designated charity, I'll give you a discount on my high-priced product. Other companies are using an ecological enticement approach. They have found that luxury guilt is eased when the consumer believes a product is environmentally safe or green.

The coming holiday shopping season – make-or-break time for many small businesses – will test the success of the campaign to quell buyers' remorse. Going in, things don't look promising. The National Retail Federation's forecast for spending during the holidays is, in a word used by the Associated Press, glum.

Read more of Ted's personal reflections and stories from the road on his blog, Ted Landphair's America.