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  • Jennifer Marks

Buying Less, Buying Better

Jennifer MarksJennifer Marks Editor-in-Chief
I AM TORN. For the past several weeks I've been writing about economic data that outlines the middle class and its buying power in sharp decline.
     On the other hand, the anecdotal evidence trickling in about consumers' reactions to elevated price points suggests they are willing to pay more - they're just not buying when or what they don't have to.
     Pragmatism isn't bad. In fact, it was a complete lack of pragmatism that landed this country where it is at present. And it is quite pragmatic to understand it will take quite some time to dig out.
     As the industry headed into 2011, the retail mantra was "Same open-to-buy, fewer skus." That, by several accounts, continues to stand as the strategy going into 2012.
     Retailers are buying less, but buying better (one hopes) because consumers are doing so. That holds true not just for the distressed middle and working class. Boutiques serving the better-heeled consumer see a need to project value. Check out our story on page 34. As one independent retailer notes: "Those that had $20 million now have $10 million and they are running scared."
     Running scared, of course, is no sound strategy for those in business. Understanding to what extent one's customers are running scared - and adjusting accordingly - is eminently rational.
     I'm torn because in preliminary market previews, I'm seeing a creative emphasis on texture as well as great, bright colors. (Hello, 1980s! We don't have to start wearing shoulder pads again, do we?)
     This is where one of us on this page would normally write: "Don't wimp out. Be bold. Give your consumer something she can't walk away from."
     I'm torn. But on second thought, I still stand by the sentiment.

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