After years of downsizing and making do, American consumers are going big once again.
A sizeable portion of the population seems to have regained a stomach for spending in recent times. Not only has there been a noticeable increase in luxury spending, sales have risen in a few key supersized categories.
McMansions become standard again. According to the Census Bureau, the average size of a newly built home in 2012 was 2,505 square feet—up from 2,480 square feet in 2011 and near the all-time high (2,521) in the pre-recession days of 2007. Apparently, as the economy has recovered and access to credit has increased, so have the appetites of American consumers for larger homes. Some home builders tell CNN that new homes sold through early 2013 have been 7% larger compared to the same period in 2012.
We’re buying trucks by the truckload. It’s been a very strong year for auto sales in general, but the rebound of the housing market and (somewhat) stabilized gas prices seems to be driving a dramatic rise in pickup truck sales. As Reuters reported, the Ford F-series, Chrysler Silverado, and Chrysler Ram all saw sales increases of more than 20% in May.
Mega yacht sales make waves. Boats are hardly necessities for most people, so when the economy tanks, so do sales of boats—pricey vessels in particular. In 2009, boat sales fell 35% and the industry experienced over 100,000 job losses, leading the federal government to extend a special financing program (don’t call it a bailout!) for small boat dealerships.
After years of slow sales and deep discounting, however, yacht sellers now tell the Sun Sentinel that business has picked up substantially in 2013, especially for custom-built luxury vessels that are 80 feet or longer.
RV sales are climbing. Like boats, sales of recreational vehicles drove off the cliff during the recession. Sales dropped 58% from 2006 to 2009. Thus far in 2013, however, shipments to dealers are up 13% over last year, and the industry is on pace to sell 307,000 units this year—the most since 2007.
Seven-foot-wide TVs hit the market. With global shipments of flat-screen TVs falling and 3-D TV technology receiving a major setback when ESPN pulled the plug on 3-D programming, it might seem like consumers don’t have much desire for increasingly bigger and “better” TVs.
Don’t tell that to electronics retailers like Sony, however, which has introduced an 84-inch 4K HDTV that retails for $24,999. Retailers are unlikely to sell many TVs that cost as much as a well-equipped car, but as the Star Tribune noted, the presence of such a television in a store like Best Buy will make a 60-inch set that costs $2,000 or $3,000 look affordable by comparison. And while the overall number of TVs sold has been mostly flat, sales of supersized TVs (50 inches or above) have been rising, up 72% according to some accounts.