The growing wealth gap between the richest and poorest Americans is creating a shopping chasm between those who are trading up and those trading down, experts say. What's missing is the middle.
"There is a two Americas kind of thing going on," said Chris Christopher, director of U.S. and global consumer markets for IHS Global Insight.
The result is a retail marketplace in which even basic goods like socks and razors are becoming either incredibly cheap or extremely expensive, experts say.
Say you're a guy who needs a new T-shirt. A shopper who feels like he has fallen down the economic ladder might opt for the $6.98 Kmart item. But a tech industry hotshot for whom things are looking up might be tempted by the $70 version available at Barneys.
Is there a new baby in the family? Cash-strapped shoppers might head to Wal-Mart for a $6.96 hoodie to bundle up that bundle of joy. The high-end shopper, on the other hand, could be eyeing the $135 cashmere number offered at J. Crew.