Providing the most comprehensive and up-to-date information and analysis of the US Value-Conscious Consumer market including the behaviors, preferences, and habits of the consumer.

Current Market Landscape

Value-conscious consumers are difficult to define and size because every consumer values something to some degree, whether it be savings in their pocket, time saved in a checkout line, or an exclusive, one-of-a-kind product. Most consumers, though, equate the word “value” with dollars and cents, and the most “value-conscious” of them arguably take a more mindful approach to their budgeting and spending practices. COVID-19, and the economic turmoil it caused, led to consumers pulling back on non-discretionary spending and being even more diligent about seeking value: 37% of adults said they have been budgeting even more since the pandemic.

COVID-19 has also caused consumers to think about what it is they truly value and their priorities. More consumers don’t want to “sweat the small stuff” anymore, instead refocusing energies on their passions and friends and family. Their attitudes toward consumption, or rather overconsumption, are shifting, with 57% of adults actively trying to reduce the amount of tangible goods they buy. This is obviously a threat to retailers that sell tangible goods, but many opportunities remain to connect with value-conscious consumers.

Future Market Trends for the US Value-Conscious Consumer

One of the biggest opportunities for brands is to consider participating in the circular economy, which could include offering preowned items for sale, enabling platforms that allow for peer-to-peer selling, offering trade-in programs or allowing customers to rent items on a temporary basis versus buying them outright. Experiential retailing (and gifting) should also see gains in the future as consumers place more value on intangibles over tangibles.

Read on to discover more about the US Value-Conscious Consumer market, read our US The Budget Shopper Market Report 2017, or take a look at our other Retail Market research reports.

Quickly understand

  • The impact of COVID-19 on consumer behavior and the retail industry.
  • Consumers’ budgeting tendencies and value-seeking behaviors.
  • How consumers think about convenience and quality.
  • Consumers’ shifting attitudes pertaining to purchasing and ownership.

Covered in this report

Brands include: Amazon, Affirm, Walmart, Target, costco, Kroger, Macy’s, Gap, Kohl’s, Bed Bath & Beyond, Good & Gather, JCPenney, Big Lots, Dollar General, Old Navy, Aldi, Nordstrom Rack, Bloomingdale’s.

Expert analysis from a specialist in the field

This report, written by Diana Smith, a leading analyst in the Retail and eCommerce sector, delivers in-depth commentary and analysis to highlight current trends and add expert context to the numbers.

Retailers should view every consumer as value-conscious and work to understand the different dimensions of value to best serve customers’ varying needs and motivations. Essentially, everyone appreciates a good deal, and some shoppers will go to great lengths to find one. Retailers who consistently offer affordable prices and flexibility will continue to earn preference. But it is the retailer that can dimensionalize value and continue to elevate convenience, prove the quality and efficacy of its products, offer superior service and proudly stand up for social, cultural and environmental causes that will win in the long run.
Diana Smith, Associate Director, Retail & eCommerce
Diana Smith
Associate Director, Retail and eCommerce

Table of Contents

  1. Overview

    • What you need to know
    • This Report looks at the following areas
    • Definition
    • Market context
    • Economic and other assumptions
    • COVID-19: US context
  2. Executive Summary

    • Top takeaways
    • Market and audience overview
      • Figure 1: Short-, medium- and long-term impact of COVID-19 on retail, October 2021
    • Opportunities and challenges
    • Help consumers manage their budgets
    • Consider offering alternative shopping options
    • Offer more than financial value
    • Lead with purpose
  3. Target Audience – Key Takeaways

    • Most consumers have a budget; not all stick to it, though
    • Value-conscious consumers are not defined by income
    • Outside factors have a huge influence on spending and budgeting tendencies
  4. Value-Conscious Consumers by the Numbers

    • Overview
    • Majority of consumers manage a budget, but to varying degrees
      • Figure 2: Budgeting approach, 2021
      • Figure 3: Budgeting profile, 2021
    • All consumers, regardless of income, focus on value
      • Figure 4: Budgeter profile, by household income and financial situation, 2021
    • Millennials, multicultural consumers and parents most likely to take budgeting seriously
      • Figure 5: Budgeter profile, by gender, generation, race and Hispanic origin, and parental status, 2021
    • Impact of COVID-19 on value-conscious consumers
      • Figure 6: Budget monitoring changes due to COVID-19, 2021
      • Figure 7: Financial situation, 2021
      • Figure 8: Budgeting more since COVID-19, by key demographics, 2021
  5. Factors Impacting Value-Conscious Consumers

    • Delta variant reverses pandemic progress
      • Figure 9: Attitudes toward COVID-19, 2021
    • Consumer confidence and unemployment reflect signs of improvement, but also volatility
      • Figure 10: Consumer confidence and unemployment, 2000-21
    • Key indicators suggest some Americans may be relaxing budgeting guidelines
    • Inflation is surging
      • Figure 11: Consumer Price Index change from previous period, 2007-21
    • Multicultural consumers experience below-average median household income
      • Figure 12: Median household income, by race and Hispanic origin of householder, 2020
  6. Companies and Brands – Key Takeaways

    • Going beyond the discount
    • Expanding store-brand assortments
    • Offering alternative shopping options
  7. Competitive Strategies

    • Offering tangible benefits such as branded cash
      • Figure 13: GapCash email
      • Figure 14: Consumer tweets about her Kohl’s Cash experience
    • Adding private label brands
      • Figure 15: Bed Bath & Beyond launches Simply Essential private label brand
    • Catering to multichannel shoppers
      • Figure 16: Big Lots holiday advertising
      • Figure 17: Dollar General’s Popshelf store format
  8. Brand Opportunities

    • Take a fresh look at loyalty programs
    • Trial various promotional tactics, but still go beyond the discount
      • Figure 18: Meaning of value, 2021
      • Figure 19: Preferred types of promotions, 2021
    • Be flexible
    • Offer value through alternative shopping options
      • Figure 20: Tendency to use alternative shopping options, by age, 2021
      • Figure 21: Motivations to shop alternative options, 2021
    • Lead with conviction
      • Figure 22: Importance of mission-based retail, by generation, 2021
  9. The Consumer – Key Takeaways

    • Deal seekers favor merchants that consistently offer value and convenience, on their terms
    • Consumers will invest time pre-purchase if it helps them save
    • Convenience has many dimensions
    • Price is not the only way to stay competitive; focus more on quality and premiumness
    • Overconsumption is out; simplification is in
  10. Retailers Shopped

    • Mass merchandisers, Amazon and warehouse clubs are top shops for those trying to maintain a budget
      • Figure 23: Retailers shopped, August 2021
    • Household income does influence where people shop
      • Figure 24: Retailers shopped, by household income, August 2021
    • Multicultural consumers heavier shoppers of mass merchandisers, dollar and discount stores
      • Figure 25: Retailers shopped, by race and Hispanic origin, August 2021
    • Branded sales events have their place in retail, but too many can be too much
  11. Value-seeking Behaviors

    • Value-conscious consumers, especially Millennials, not quick to buy without doing their homework
      • Figure 26: Pre-purchase shopping behaviors, August 2021
      • Figure 27: Pre-purchase shopping behaviors, by generation, August 2021
      • Figure 28: Bloomingdale’s email with exclusive offer
    • Private label brand purchases and bulk buying among value-seeking behaviors
      • Figure 29: Buying tendencies, August 2021
    • The bigger the household, the more proactive the effort to procure value
      • Figure 30: Buying tendencies, by household size, August 2021
    • Budgets are made to be broken
      • Figure 31: Reasons for going outside of budget, August 2021
      • Figure 32: Reasons for going outside of budget, by gender and age, August 2021
    • Free shipping incentives can drive up online basket size
      • Figure 33: Tendency to add items to an online cart for free shipping, by gender and age; parental status, August 2021
    • Sales process sometimes continues post-purchase as consumers seek price adjustments
      • Figure 34: Tendency to ask for price adjustments post-purchase, by gender and age; parental status, August 2021
      • Figure 35: Target launches price-match guarantee during holidays
  12. Meaning of Convenience

    • Convenience means saving something – time, money and/or stress
      • Figure 36: Meaning of convenience, 2021
    • Lower-income consumers equate convenience with money savings to a greater degree
      • Figure 37: Meaning of convenience – time versus money savings, by household income, 2021
    • Female shoppers value an easy, simple shopping experience
      • Figure 38: Meaning of convenience – ease of use factors, by gender and age, 2021
    • Gen Z and Millennials want to feel valued and protected
      • Figure 39: Meaning of convenience – select factors, by generation; parental status, 2021
    • Six in 10 Hispanics see saving money as convenient
      • Figure 40: Meaning of convenience – select factors, by Hispanic origin, 2021
  13. Important Quality Aspects

    • Durability and reputation key to creating quality perceptions
      • Figure 41: Aspects of quality, 2021
      • Figure 42: Select aspects of quality, by gender, 2021
    • Visual appeal holds meaning for younger shoppers
      • Figure 43: Aspects of quality, by generation, 2021
    • Packaging and sustainable methods can help a new product earn quality credence
      • Figure 44: Aspects of quality, by race and Hispanic origin, 2021
  14. Attitudes Toward Purchasing and Ownership

    • What people value is changing
      • Figure 45: General attitudes toward purchasing and ownership in light of COVID-19, 2021
      • Figure 46: Attitudes toward purchasing and shopping options in light of COVID-19, 2021
      • Figure 47: Attitudes toward purchasing and shopping options in light of COVID-19, by gender, 2021
    • Pandemic has big impact on Millennials’ shopping approaches
      • Figure 48: Attitudes toward purchasing and ownership in light of COVID-19 – index versus all, by generation, 2021
    • Parents extremely open to alternative shopping options
      • Figure 49: Attitudes toward purchasing and ownership in light of COVID-19, by parental status, 2021
      • Figure 50: Rhea Lana’s children’s consignment shop pre-sale announcement
    • Alternative shopping options are growing, but there remains a fair amount of disinterest to overcome
      • Figure 51: Resistance to alternative shopping options, 2021
  15. Appendix – Data Sources and Abbreviations

    • Data sources
    • Consumer survey data
    • Abbreviations and terms
    • Abbreviations
    • Terms

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