Editors Take: 2010 Recovery Requires New Thinking
Did you hear what went down in the most recent “board of buyers” meeting? Here’s an excerpt:
Do I need this thing?
Yeah, sort of.
Do I really need it?
Well … I could use it and, darn it, I deserve it.
Do I truly need it?
Nehhh ... forget it.
These days, decisions on all sorts of purchases go through many consumers’ personal “boards of buyers,” sort of a shopping version of the id, ego and superego. This imaginary board consists of the assorted moods we’ve all developed this year to stomach the economic bad and keep afloat financially.
If we’re fortunate enough to enjoy the recovery in 2010 that economists are promising (albeit with much hedging), then next year is going to be drastically different from 2009. This year has, in turn, been quite different from 2008.
About the only good thing one can say about last year is that all types of retailers had enough advance notice during the fourth quarter to plan ultraconservatively for 2009. With consumers balking at spending much of anything this year, about the only thing marketers could do was get themselves into good enough shape to avoid going bankrupt. So they slashed costs, laid off staff, trimmed inventories and have continued to wait out this deep freeze.
The exceptions have been Wal-Mart, Amazon.com, The TJX Cos. and a few others. Otherwise, just about anything not marked down accumulated dust in fulfillment centers or on store counters.
Consumers Rule More Than Ever
Meanwhile, as consumers held back, they got a whole lot wiser about how the retail game is played. If retailers, catalog marketers and to a lesser extent online merchants (notwithstanding Amazon.com) were running the merchandise-selling game all along, the rules changed this year. Meet the new boss — quite different from the old boss.