business news in context, analysis with attitude

MNB took note last week of a Wall Street Journal report that “Americans are spending more on electronics like iPads and flat-screen televisions and less on durable goods like furniture, washing machines and lawn mowers, according to government data released Tuesday.

“The shift reflects a change in priorities for American consumers. After pouring money into all aspects of their homes during the previous decade, consumers are redirecting their purchases to eye-grabbing technology and socking away more of what's left over into savings.”

MNB user Dave Tuchler responded:

I chalk it up to nothing more than consumers playing catch-up ball on postponed purchases, while hanging on to a few newly acquired habits (like value shopping) gained during the recent 18 months.  No one has ever (successfully) claimed that consumers are logical.  On the other hand, a conspiracy theorist would say that this reflects 'the widening gap between the haves and have-nots' or something like that - that the statistics are really the sum of 2 separate buying groups.  Didn't notice the details on how they ran the numbers.

Another MNB user wrote:

Consider for a minute…

Bifurcation between haves and haves a lot AND have barely enough or not enough.

Keeping up with technology…to maybe break into the haves and haves a lot class of Americans.

Buying generic toothpaste…to be able to afford healthcare or a trip to the dentist.

These are but a few trends…let’s keep our eye on these…

This same MNB user raised the following question about something I said, that “marketers, even in tough times, would do well not to always cater to the lowest common denominator...”

By lowest common denominator are you referring to the have nots and barely haves??? This country is going somewhere that scares me.

It was not my intention to suggest that the “have notes” are the lowest common denominator. What I am suggesting is that people up and down the economic ladder all have aspirations...and that marketers are almost always better served when they don’t condescend, but rather speak to those aspirations.

Another MNB user wrote:

Given the performance in high end luxury items and the new frugality in staple items, I wonder if what we're seeing is erosion of the middle class and growing gap between the upper and lower classes. Just wondering.

I took note last week of a story about how a Pacific Northwest financial institution is looking to differentiate itself, which prompted one MNB user to write:

Umpqua Bank is as described…but they are putting up a “public façade” to cover the fact that they finance the destruction of  Northwest environmental assets…forest, rivers, etc.…They are not a part of the community in which I participate.

This is an important lesson. The public facade has to match the reality...because in this era of transparency, hypocrisy is almost always outed.

Regarding Barnes & Noble looking for a buyer because of changing consumer trends, one MNB user wrote:

Barnes & Noble – always the best bookstore in town (for me) because they always had the business books I wanted and were convenient. I’m not sure if their current economic condition is a matter of the US economic condition or if they failed to keep relevant…but they have always given me a good brand experience…going there today to pick up “The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest”…whew!! This trilogy of books really sucked me in!!!

Check out today’s “Eye-Opener” for further thoughts on this general subject.

And responding to Friday’s piece in “OffBeat” about my Napa/Sonoma trip, MNB user Gary Silverman wrote:

Been to many of those wineries.  Sounds like you had a great trip.  On your list you forgot to mention one of my favorites that I wrote to you about – Prager Ports!  This is what I wrote to you in my previous email   “And if you like Port wine, (and are ready to get ripped!) you HAVE to stop in at Prager Ports right off Main Street/St. Helena Highway at Lewelling (It is small, and I think kind of behind I believe it’s Sutter Homes)  They have a great little shack to taste in, where sometimes old man Prager (about 90?) will come in and sit on a stool and drink with you.  Everyone who comes in signs a dollar bill (or 5 or 10!) or a bill from whatever country they come from and tack it to the walls or ceiling, which is completely covered!  They give you a HUGE pour of 5 or 6 different Port wines that are always incredibly tasty.  Beware, I have come out of there wobbly on more than one occasion, but always s smiling, and always with at least one or two bottles.  The experience there is priceless.”

Just thought it was worth a mention as it is always fun, nice ports, and different than anywhere else you go in the valley.

Next time...
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