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Cecile Corral

Give consumers an eco-reason to shop

January 30, 2009

In 2009, consumers "will act rationally," meaning they will restrict their shopping to what they need, "and they don’t need much," Mike Ullman, ceo of JCPenney, recently warned — as seen quoted yesterday in the USA Today article titled "Consumers get frugal, so retailers get creative."


Home textiles retailers are bracing themselves for a continual economic downturn this year by slashing operating costs in the form of huge layoffs, store closings and other efforts.


But as a shopper myself, I think retailers’ biggest concern in the long run should be how to convince their customers that they need to spend on discretionary items, including some bedding and bath goods.


This economic downturn seems to be teaching people from all income levels how to shop cheaper and less frequently, often trading fashion for function. In the USA Today article, the author quotes a woman from Lafayette, Ind. who sums up this mentality, saying she has embraced a new "willingness to talk myself out of a purchase (and say), ‘I don’t really need that.’” She concludes by adding, “I hope that’s a discipline that sticks. And I honestly think it stems more from a desire to streamline and move to simplicity than fears about the recession."


If a recession spells trouble, "simplicity" might spell doom for some retailers — and their vendors — if they don’t rapidly get creative and more conscious of shoppers’ changing attitudes toward their purchases.


Maybe a piece of the solution is to create crisp, clean eco-friendly products that aren’t just produced in a green color scheme to give off the appearance of earth-consciousness. Retailers might consider working more closely with their vendors – and vice versa — to give priority to products that matter and encourage consumers to make intelligent choices and value quality.


Just as their pocketbooks are getting lighter, their shopping skills are getting sharper, and they don’t want to be treated like a mindless herd that is easily swayed by tricky marketing.


Show consumers you care about them and the greater good, and they might reward you at the cash register.