By Courtney Reagan, CNBC Reporter NEW YORK ( CNBC) -- Despite rising consumer confidence and strong February same-store sales, don't celebrate the return of the consumer just yet. The findings of a recent study by WSL/Strategic Retail provide some sobering observations. Most consumers still feel as though they are struggling to afford the basic necessities. "Every retailer wants to think 'Everything I sell is worth it! Shoppers will love it', but the hard reality is 52% Americans feel they barely have enough to afford the basics," said Candace Corlett, president of WSL/Strategic Retail. Corlett's comments are based on a survey WSL/Strategic Retail conducted of 1,950 consumers in December regarding their shopping habits.
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"Retailers have trained women to never pay full price and take pride in being a smart shopper," Corlett said. "It's a real struggle to sell anyone anything at full price." Because price has become central for decision making, some brand names will suffer, particularly with women shoppers, Corlett said. Some 67% of women said that trusted brands are not worth paying for, and they are pausing to consider whether it's a smart use of their money. "It's an income issue, but it's also a value issue," she said. "We have lost that mindset of we have to buy, buy, buy, buy. . .we've built in a lot of push back. Retail sales will be up, but people aren't buying everything they want, they are buying what they need." As a result, retailers need to ask themselves: can they afford to take price increases if they are selling to a shopper that can barely afford the basics? "Frivolous is out," she said. --Written by Courtney Reagan at CNBC