Price-driven consumers still want to buy items on discount, but price cuts don't have to be as steep as they were one year ago to get shoppers to spend, said Britt Beemer, chairman of America's Research Group.
According to a study by Beemer's firm, about 21 percent of shoppers said they only buy items when they're discounted between 40 and 50 percent, which is down from about 28 percent one year ago. Now, shoppers are willing to make purchases for 25 to 33 percent off, he said.
"They still don't want to buy it at full retail, but they're not going to be as much of a discount demon as they were a year ago," Beemer told CNBC.
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Among the reasons shoppers continue to cut back on spending — 30 percent said they need to pay off bills and debt; 11 percent are spending on high utility bills; and 17 percent said they don't see much that they want to buy. Those compare with figures of 33 percent; 22 percent and 17 in recent years.
One positive for retailers, Beemer said, is that 65 percent of women said they've seen the new spring apparel line and like it.
Robbie Myers, editor-in-chief of Elle Magazine, said fashion has trended toward more professional looks in a period of high unemployment, as women dress to keep their jobs and advance in the professional world. There's also been a return to luxury, as they look to invest in longterm chic.
"It's the way women want to dress when they go out in the real world," Myers said.
Although they're cautious, Myers said retailers are more optimistic than they were a year ago. But Beemer emphasized that it may take another 12 months before the consumer fully rebounds.
"Consumers have pulled back a lot still, let's not kid ourselves," he said. "We've not yet recovered ... by any means."
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