7 Spending Trends That Speak Volumes About U.S. Consumers

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From guns and pot (marijuana, that is) to bowls (instead of plates), what we buy reveals our shifting demographics and outlook on the world.

How we spend our hard-earned money can be quite revealing.

“To some extent, we are what we buy,” explains Money.

Some products experience surging sales after a strong marketing campaign, a dramatic shift in price or the endorsement of a popular celebrity — have you heard of the “Oprah Effect”?  But often the rush to buy is the result of shifting U.S. demographics.

The seven hot-selling items in a list compiled by Money reflect the latter. Check out where U.S. consumer dollars are flowing and what that reveals about Americans today:

  • Legal weed: With more states legalizing marijuana for recreational or medicinal purposes, the cannabis industry has experienced explosive growth. Legal pot sales reached $5.4 billion in the United States in 2015, a 17.4 percent spike over 2014. Pot sales are expected to hit $6.7 billion this year — in turn generating healthy tax revenues in states that allow it.
  • Canadian goods: When the value of the U.S. dollar rises compared with the Canadian currency as it has recently (the current rate is US$1 = C$1.32) many Americans flock across the northern border to shop. Money said the number of U.S. visitors to Canada shot up by 1.6 million during the first 11 months of 2015, and that number is expected to keep climbing this year.
  • Guns: Anxiety caused by mass shootings and fears that they will lead to more restrictive gun laws have sparked record-breaking gun sales in the United States in recent years. Check out “Gun-Buying Rush Swamps FBI Background Checkers.”
  • Anything that can be bought on a phone (or tablet): Mobile shopping and spending soared 60 percent from 2014 to 2015. With retailers shifting more of their focus to mobile consumers, it’s likely that number will only continue to increase in 2016.
  • Streaming service subscription: Regardless of whether they stream video or music, streaming service subscriptions are on the rise. Netflix, Hulu, Spotify and Amazon Prime, just to name a few, are continually increasing their customer base.
  • Bowls: That’s right. “Bowls are the new plates,” the The Wall Street Journal recently announced, noting that moving from plates to bowls signals a shift to a more casual lifestyle. Money noted that many health-conscious trendsetters are trading in their plates for bowls while restaurants are also moving towards bowl-friendly entrees. Money said bowl sales from dish companies like Fiesta increased by 17 percent last year.
  • Adult diapers: With Americans living longer these days and many seniors struggling with incontinence problems, it’s really no surprise that adult diapers are flying off the shelves. Money said adult diaper sales are expected to grow by 48 percent globally by 2020. Compare that with baby diaper sales, which are expected to experience a much more modest growth of 2.6 percent in the next four years.

Are you spending money in any of the seven categories highlighted above? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

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