After the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, the American consumer landscape changed, perhaps forever. Along with the loss of our illusion of safety from acts of war carried out on our soil, went consumer confidence and the feeling of well-being that consuming brought to Americans. Today, confronting an uncertain future, threatened by terrorist acts of horror at home, with our troops committed to military action overseas, American consumers face a crisis that our leaders warn us may extend over the next ten years.
Consumers in crisis are consumers under stress. Men and women react differently to stress. While men may seek out buddies in bars and at athletic games, women may go shopping. As we have uncovered in our research, emotional needs, not physical ones, drive a substantial amount of U.S. household spending. In the face of crisis, women who do the bulk of American households' shopping may spend more money on discretionary purchases to relieve stress and help them achieve emotional satisfaction. In our post-9/11 world, consumer marketers operating in every segment of the U.S. economy need to understand how consumers use shopping and buying things for emotional gratification and achieving psychological well-being. This emotionally driven consumption is the realm of discretionary spending.