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Survey March 18, 2024

Report from Bread Financial finds 98% of middle-class shoppers believe retailers could be doing more to meet their needs

Depressed young girl with empty account is trying to shopping online

Study shows continued economic uncertainty and inflation are affecting the ways middle class consumers shop, pay and engage with their favorite brands 

COLUMBUS, Ohio – March 18, 2024 – Bread Financial (NYSE: BFH), a tech-forward financial services company that provides simple, flexible payment, lending and saving solutions, today released a new study that highlights the unique ways middle class U.S. consumers are shopping, spending and interacting with brands. The survey found that more than half (59%) of these shoppers are concerned about inflation and are adapting their spending habits as a result. 

The State of the Middle-Class Shopper report found 50% of middle-class shoppers say they are spending more than they were last year. Those dollars are focused more on non-discretionary spending, with 91% saying they at least somewhat agree they are focused more on their needs than their wants. Despite this shift, discretionary spending isn’t completely out of the question with 71% of middle-class consumers saying they spent money dining out and 54% reporting they purchased beauty and personal care products within the past two weeks. 

From customer service to deals and loyalty programs, the study uncovered that many middle-class shoppers expect more from brands and retailers with 98% believing retailers could be doing more to better meet their needs. This ranges from offering better prices (58%) to offering more sales and promotions (47%). Beyond incentives, respondents also ranked improving or starting a loyalty program (37%) and better customer service (37%) as top priorities.  

Brand loyalty still reigns supreme when it comes to where the middle-class shops with 47% saying they’re motivated to purchase from a brand they love; however, their expectations of brands varied across generations: 

Digital ease drives the path to purchase for young consumers: Millennials (26%) and Gen Z (26%) are more than twice as likely as Baby Boomers (11%) to say they want brands to offer a mobile app or improve the app currently available. When it comes to social media, Gen Z wants more from brands. Specifically, 19% of Gen Z consumers want brands to increase social media giveaways and promotions, while 17% say brands can improve their overall social media content. 

Younger generations want more options across the board: Millennials (16%) and Gen Z (17%) are four times as likely as Baby Boomers (4%) to want additional payment options, such as a store credit card or buy now, pay later (BNPL). Additionally, millennials (20%) and Gen Z (22%) are twice as likely as Baby Boomers (11%) to want more specialty services, like personal shopping or buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS). 

“Middle class shoppers across generations all share a desire for better service, better deals and better loyalty programs,” said Nick Antonelli, chief marketing officer at Bread Financial. “Looking at the rising generations of the middle-class shopper, if Gen Z and Millennials are in your customer base, meet them where they are, with attainable – yet aspirational – products, payment options and engaging digital experiences.” 

Study Methodology 
The study included two phases of quantitative research. Phase 1 leveraged Bread Financial’s proprietary consumer tracking study, which is fielded monthly to 2,000 U.S. consumers, with quotas on age and gender to reflect the general population. The study leveraged aggregated data from October, November and December 2023 and included 5,819 consumers. The Phase 2 quantitative survey was fielded on January 15-26, 2024 to 2,289 consumers with quotas on age, gender and income. 

About Bread Financial™

Bread Financial™ (NYSE: BFH) is a tech-forward financial services company providing simple, personalized payment, lending and saving solutions. The company creates opportunities for its customers and partners through digitally enabled choices that offer ease, empowerment, financial flexibility and exceptional customer experiences. Driven by a digital-first approach, data insights and white-label technology, Bread Financial delivers growth for its partners through a comprehensive suite of payment solutions that includes private label and co-brand credit cards and Bread Pay™ buy now, pay later products. Bread Financial also offers direct-to-consumer products that give customers more access, choice and freedom through its branded Bread Cashback American Express® Credit Card and Bread Savings™ products.

Headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, Bread Financial is powered by its approximately 7,000+ global associates and is committed to sustainable business practices. To learn more about Bread Financial, visit or follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter/X and Instagram.