Editor’s Take: Desperate or Shortsighted?
For my final column of 2008, I thought I’d examine the results of some recent reader polls we’ve run on CatalogSuccess.com, hoping a few positives might come through. Well, I tried, but found mixed results at best. After each discussion below, I give a little “mood” rating between one and 10, with 10 being highly optimistic and one being pessimistic.
Holiday Sales Projections: Although the smallest percentage of readers (19 percent) were planning on a “decent size” increase, 26 percent were planning for a slight increase, 29 percent expected flat sales and 26 percent planned for a decrease.
All things considered, these numbers are reasonably encouraging. Consumers still are going to buy holiday gifts, but they’re likely to spend less and opt for the more practical. Here, I’m cautiously optimistic: 7.
Cost Cutting: We asked what portion of your overall operating costs you’ve been able to cut this year. The largest portion of readers, 57 percent, said zero to 5 percent. Another 29 percent of respondents said 6 percent to 15 percent. None indicated 16 percent to 25 percent, but 14 percent said they trimmed more than 25 percent of their costs.
Overall, this seems par for the course, but I expect more marketers to make larger cuts next year. I’m about neutral: 5.
Biggest Economic Worries: We also asked what your biggest worry is this year in light of the faltering economy. The fact that the largest group, 52 percent, said their main concern was a lack of sales struck me as a bit shortsighted. Sure, it’s all about the sales, stupid, but the other answers carried more of an eye toward the future with them. They were rising printing and mailing costs (cited by just 13 percent), an inability to prospect aggressively (17 percent) and having to cut staff (17 percent).
I wonder if a good number of marketers are seriously concerned their companies won’t survive beyond January if they don’t reach reasonable sales levels. Not good. Sorry, but for this one, I’m quite pessimistic: 2.
If you’re lucky enough to be part of a business that sells recession-proof goods, you may be less impacted than others. You may even come out ahead. But the reality may be that some readers face a make-or-break holiday season.
Unless you’re in such a dire situation, pay close attention to the recent performance of your own company rather than the headlines, as catalog consultant John Lenser recently advised his clients.
As John noted, improve your cutting-edge marketing practices. Don’t revert to cheaper, simpler or easier ones, or you’ll set yourself up to fail. “Well run, efficient companies,” he reminds us, “are always ahead when times are rough.”