Washington, DC—A report released Thursday by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) found that U.S. retailers had spent more than $1.6 trillion over the past decade in direct and indirect marketing and promotional efforts that may have helped drive down average home prices and consumer debt levels.
In its report, the CFPB found that direct and direct marketing spending accounted for almost a third of total spending, and that the percentage of total sales in direct marketing declined from 35.6% in 2006 to 32.3% in 2019.
“There is no question that direct marketing efforts played a significant role in driving down home prices, and it was the direct marketing industry that had the most to gain from the financial crisis,” said CFPBS director Richard Cordray.
“In the end, consumers ended up paying more for a product that is not as good as they were told it was.”
The report also found that the direct and cross-sell program that retailers were able to use to boost sales by more than 20% in one year, from $1 billion to more than one billion dollars, contributed to an overall increase in consumer debt.
The report, titled “Home Price and Debt in the United States: Direct Marketing and Cross-Sell” found that in the three years that the program was in place, the percentage reduction in consumer prices for all consumers was an average of 2.6%.
Direct marketing spending is an average total of nearly $1,400 for each family, according to the report.
While direct marketing was responsible for a majority of total direct marketing spent, a smaller percentage of spending was directed to cross-selling.
Cross-selling, the study found, was responsible in about three quarters of all direct marketing expenditures in the U.K., Germany, and Spain.
“The CFPBs report is an important reminder that direct selling is not the only way for retailers to raise money, or even to create new sales opportunities,” Cordray said.
“Retailers must do more to support their existing sales teams and build relationships with their customers and communities.”
“Retail is a great example of how we can use new technology to improve our businesses and our customers’ lives,” said Karen R. Houghton, president and CEO of the CFCB.
“With the new technology and our new approach, we are creating new opportunities for retail to provide their customers with quality, affordable goods, while ensuring that they remain in the home and are supported in their efforts to live better lives.
Our efforts in the retail space will continue to drive home the message that the marketplace is a good place to live.”
The report comes after a study released earlier this month by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston found that Americans have spent nearly $5 trillion in direct sales in the last decade, including a total of $3 trillion that was spent directly on merchandise.