All of the gloom and doom about the economy may not be as bad for independent business as you have heard. The media is not concerned with reporting how the local baked goods, stationery or specialty retail shops are doing. In our experience, independents are holding their own regardless of what is on the news. It also depends on what segment of business, retail or service, that independents are in.
One key indicator of recession is the US government stats. These are based on the economic results of much larger businesses and do not really reflect what is happening at the neighborhood level. Those that watch and report on recessionary trends also follow the government stats and therefore are only echoing trends based on the larger businesses. Have you noticed smaller lines at Starbucks? I haven’t. Not to say this business is small, but they appear that way because of their neighborhood emphasis and boutique environment.
Fancy foods and beverages
In times of hardship most people will back off some from capital goods but release dollars on creature comforts like wines, baked goods, specialty fine foods, coffees, soothing teas and related products. This year when my sister asked me what I wanted for Christmas I said “consumables”. So she gave me a gift hamper full of cheeses, crackers, coffee and a couple of neat kitchen gadgets. My nephews always have a taste for real beef jerky and products made from top-quality ingredients. So judging from my family and from the trends at Nashville Wraps…I’d say that quality products rule and consumers are not hesitant to spend for them.
Our usual pile of gifts was smaller this year. We did not exchange as much apparel. But then that leads to another point. Apparel retailers, especially the chain stores, started discounting goods early in Q4-08. By December the mall apparel stores were at 70% off with buy 2 get 1 free deals. I went into one of the top branded store and pickup up a nice knit shirt that was stupid cheap, flipped it over and saw “Made in Indonesia”. I put it right back down and walked out. However my son bought me a vintage denim Carhartt jacket (made in the USA circa 1980) for $100 on eBay. We all had been looking for one for weeks.
Our family may be different from the average family, but we are tired of everything being made in Asia and have made the commitment not to buy as much of it anymore. So those retailers that can get their hands on quality garments made in America will do well with them.
People are more fundamental in there spending now. Frills and excess are not considered as necessary as 6 months ago. We are becoming more aware of the environment, packaging, products and the fact that we as individuals actually can and do make a difference. We have been conserving (still) on gasoline even when it went down to under $1.50 a gallon. We are recycling more, wasting less and starting to feel good about ourselves, our country and our planet once again.
As an independent business you can shape what you offer much more easily than the large retailers because they have so much weight to toss around. Keep your business lean and on point, deliver quality products and services, find out what your customers want and then deliver it…You will succeed even in this economy.
Oh… one last thing: Get out more often! When you refuse to go to opportunities like trade shows, you are not going to see what is new and what opportunities await.