Shopping 'Til the Quality Drops

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Lauren Parra prefers to spend more money buying quality items that will last more than two or three seasons.

These days it's getting harder and harder.

"I have noticed a shift in the quality of items. For instance, I noticed that Loft and Gap items look/feel like they'll fall apart—clothes aren't soft anymore," said Parra.

Parra, who likes to shop at Ann Taylor, Urban Outfitters and Rue La La, is not imagining anything.

Quality at many retailers seems to be hanging on by a thread.

According to Global Hunter Securities Macro and Consumer Strategist Richard Hastings, retailers have been collaborating with their production contractors for about two years. They are trying to push back on the total volume, cost and weight of every unit.

"Along the way, the consumer barely noticed. By now, everybody knows something is wrong," said Hastings. "If we had to put a number on it, it's probably a 7.5% decline in total quality and durability of products compared to a bigger increase in the cost of production per unit made outside of the U.S. ."

Hastings does not see any improvements regarding quality in the pipeline down the road.

Retail Analyst Eric Beder of Brean Murray, Carret & Co says we are also seeing more mixed fabrics when before it was all wool or cotton, and less lining in pants and dresses.

"When price and quality are mismatched, consumers vote with their feet and leave the store. We believe many retailers, with limited brand power, are now forced to compete on price—which in an inflationary environment is a losing proposition," said Beder.

Stephanie is Squawk Box producer. Follow her on twitter @StephLandsman


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