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Is there a phrase in English that works as a direct antonym to the idiomatic carriage trade, that is, the wealthy patrons of a store, restaurant, hotel, etc.; the elite clientele?

carriage trade: [mass noun] North American informal The wealthy clientele of a business: determined to pursue the carriage trade, she quickly established an old-girl network (Source: ODO)

carriage: A wheeled vehicle, especially a four-wheeled horse-drawn passenger vehicle, often of an elegant design. (Source: AHD)

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'Direct antonym' could be either the vast majority of customers who do not have their clothes made to measure, or the impecunious who only buy T-shirts if they are not full price: which do you want? – TimLymington Feb 9 at 12:58
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Carriage trade is on its way out, to that imaginary place where lowscale clientele also doesn't exist. Here's a neat Ngram comparing some of these answers and your words. (click search again: "Ngrams not found: lowscale clientele") – Mazura Feb 9 at 15:47
    
That Ngram is rather interesting in that "carriage trade" rises just as people with means were buying automobiles. – DWin Feb 10 at 1:33

I came across the phrase bargain-basement while researching for an appropriate answer.

(adj.) markedly inexpensive (bargain–basement rates)

[Merriam Webster]

From The 8 Steps: Your Business or Your Life - Getting All You Want Out of BOTH:: By David Shepherd, customers can be broadly classified into 4 groups (The Harvard Model):

enter image description here

Thus, I feel bargain-basement customers would better suit your context.

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up vote 14 down vote accepted

I just came across the answer to my own question while searching the Net.

high-end clientele is to low-end clientele as carriage trade is to coach trade.

The railroad recognizes that the change in dining car patronage from the carriage trade to the coach trade necessarily shifts the emphasis from high-priced meals to lower-priced dishes Railway Age - Volume 146 - Page 27

coach class: n. An economical class of passenger accommodations on a commercial airplane or other conveyance. American Heritage® Dictionary

coach: A large, closed, four-wheeled carriage with an elevated exterior seat for the driver; a stagecoach. American Heritage® Dictionary

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I'm not sure carriage trade ever had much currency (but it's primarily AmE, so what do I know?). But if we call them "customers" rather than "trade", here are a few contexts explicitly contrasting "wealthy customers" and "coach customers", so there's no question in my mind that coach is the word you seek. – FumbleFingers Feb 9 at 19:27

I would suggest mass market. According to Wikipedia:

The mass market is the largest group of end consumers for a specified product. It is the opposite of the term niche market.

The carriage trade is a niche market, but obviously there are other niche markets, so if you want a term to use in isolation (i.e. not mentioning carriage trade) then it wouldn't fit well. But it would work well in e.g.:

Most shops maximise their profits by aiming at the mass market: "pile 'em high and sell 'em cheap". Some, however, manage to make more money by aiming at the carriage trade, by selling fewer items but selling each one at a significantly higher profit.

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The term budget is used to refer to customers who generally have a limited and predetermied amount of money to spend. Without referring to low-social classes, I'd say that "budget customers" are those that may convey the idea of low, careful and restricted spending, just opposite to what the big spenders, like the "carriage trade", convey.

Budget:

  • the amount of money that is available for, required for, or assigned to a particular purpose.

(M-W)

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It's not an exact match, but you could consider using "Trade (business) with bargain hunters." A bargain hunter means:

a ​person who looks for a ​place to ​buy something at a ​price that is ​cheaper than usual.

[Cambridge Dictionaries Online]

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A rich big spender may well be, and probably often is, a bargain hunter. – Josh61 Feb 9 at 11:32
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@Josh61 Yes, you are right, but usually bargain hunters are not upscale clientele who pursue carriage trade. – Rathony Feb 9 at 11:33

my first reaction was "hoi-polloi", but coach trade seems a more fitting antonym.

originally from Greek meaning "masses". Merriam Webster has several definitions along the lines of "majority"

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