Are You Mental? Retailers Try to Understand (and Exploit) the ‘Recession Mentality’

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Is the recession over? It doesn’t really matter. Retailers and manufacturers realize that frugality will be the rule at least for the near future, and they’re trying to figure out how to reach the newly cautious, newly vigilant consumer.

A WSJ story describes how companies ranging from Clorox to Campbell Soup, and from Wal-Mart to Nordstrom are coping and reaching out to the recession-era shopper. What these companies are realizing is that price really matters to consumers (duh, what took them so long?).

There are a few ongoing price wars, but what consumers can expect even more of are companies appealing to shoppers’ sense of value. Stores are acknowledging that people are tougher customers nowadays, that people demand decent bang for their buck. Whether these companies actually deliver good value is a different question.

Competition is especially tough in the supermarket, as the WSJ reports:

Supermarkets usually benefit during downturns as people turn away from restaurants and buy more food to prepare at home. But coupon-clippers are making it tough to boost margins. Kroger Co., the country’s No. 2 supermarket chain by revenue, recently downgraded its 2009 earnings-per-share guidance. “Customers are buying more of what they need and less of what they want,” Kroger chief operating officer Rodney McMullen told investors.

The thing is: If stores are only successful in selling us what we need, then they’re not successful at all.

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