business news in context, analysis with attitude

Responding to my “Time Is On Our Side” commentary last week, which may have been uncharacteristically optimistic, one MNB user wrote:

I'm sorry to be cynical, but I just don't see all this good stuff happening - Let's be honest - as a nation us Americans have been living way beyond our means.  The only way any of these good times will come in the future is if the rest of the world (namely China)  continues to send their hard earned money our way for us americans to spend on our "emotional experiences".  I think they will wise up and realize we can't pay it back and they will start keeping their money for their own consumerism and emotional experiences and stop sending it our way to spend into oblivion.

This country is broke.  Our national debt is insane and growing faster than ever.  Consumer debt levels are ridiculous.  I think the party will come to an end in an even harder and more painful way than what we've seen the past two years once other countries stop loaning us all their money.  The longer the government keeps trying to inflate bubbles and keeps providing incentives for Americans to spend more and more money and go into more debt the worse it's going to be for us in 2018 or whenever the day of reckoning comes.

The addition of all those additional social sector jobs isn't what we need.  Jobs are good absolutely, but we need more productive jobs.  As a nation we should use our entrepreneurialism and innovation to make stuff, sell it to the rest of the world and save or invest in PRODUCTIVE things, not spend it on more consumer goods and experiences. That's the responsible thing we should do if we want to have a viable future.

Thanks for letting me rant.  I just think articles like that show the fact that as a nation we don't understand or take seriously our overspending and the true economic reality of this country.

The commentary used as a starting point the notion that by 2018 there will be plenty of jobs out there, and that many of them will be filled by aging baby boomers looking for “encore careers.” One MNB user responded:

That’s all find and good as long as society ensures there are QUALITY opportunities for the next generation to make their mark.  I know a number of excellent and dynamic recent graduates of teaching colleges who can’t find positions even substitute teaching.  This is because many retired teachers have great connections at their former schools and are called first for any opportunities to substitute teach (and top up their RRSPs).  How are the younger ones to gain experience and get established if the “experienced” guard doesn’t relinquish a bit to give them some opportunities?

The problem is that the experienced ones either don’t want to retire or can’t afford to.

Speaking as an aging baby boomer, I certainly want the next generation to have all the opportunities in the world...but I’m not prepared to stop being productive in order to make room.

We also had a story last week that mentioned how a two-and-a-half year old instantly understood how to use an iPad ... which teaches us much about the challenges of marketing to and communicating with the next generation of consumers. It also led one MNb user to write:

When my grandson was about the same age as this little girl (he is now 17), he came to my house one evening to stay while his parents shopped.  He brought along his lap top computer; he was using his diaper bag as the “case” for the laptop.  He reached in his diaper bag, pulled out the lap top and proceeded to start up and play some games.  I sat there just wondering how a child who could understand how to get in and out of programs on his computer couldn’t quite figure out the diaper thing.

And he’s a lot closer to being tomorrow’s shopper than that two-and-a-half year old...

Also got the following email from Dale Twining of the Private Label Manufacturers Association:

I just read your comments on the item from Marketing Daily, which quoted PLMA’s most recent consumer study on Recession, Recovery and Store Brands: What Consumers Are Saying Now.

I’m sorry for any confusion. Hopefully, answers to any questions you have can be found in the full report...

Referencing your query on the sample, the study was conducted in conjunction with GfK Roper’s weekly OMNITEL survey of American shoppers. From their statement of methodology:

OMNITEL is a weekly national telephone omnibus service from GfK Roper… The sample for each week's OMNITEL wave consists of 1,000 completed interviews, made up of male and female adults (in approximately equal number), all 18 years of age and over… The raw data are weighted by a custom designed computer program, which automatically develops a weighting factor for each respondent… Each interview is assigned a single weight derived from the relationship between the actual proportion of the population with its specific combination of age, sex, education, race and geographic characteristics and the proportion in our sample that week. Tabular results show both weighted and unweighted bases for these demographic variables. Because of the use of rigid and replicable sampling, field, and weighting procedures, all OMNITEL studies are parallel to one another. This affords the opportunity to draw trend comparisons, as well as point-in time analysis.

The results that are cited in the report from PLMA are the weighted tabulations.

As to your second point, the question GfK asked on shoppers’ perceptions of the economy was worded as follows.

Q. Looking back over the past few months, would you say recent economic conditions have…

Improved 17%
Stayed the same 42%
Gotten Worse 40%

The phrases “over the past few months” and “recent economic conditions” were designed to get at what shoppers are thinking in a fairly current sense. The shoppers were never asked to compare the economy now with the period in late 2008 as you’re suggesting.

As for you final point – cautioning those in the business to resist pegging store brands success to a sluggish economy – I couldn’t agree with you more.
KC's View: