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Consumer research company Mintel International hosted an informative webinar this week entitled “Where We Are Now: Shopping & Spending Trends,” in which speaker Marcia Mogelonsky presented some sobering statistics on the economy and unemployment as well as a heartening forecast, particularly as it concerns the food industry.
Chicago-based Mintel’s research shows that while consumer confidence is way up since last February, so are the unemployment figures, which could grow as high as 10 percent in the coming months. Perhaps more significant than the unemployment figures themselves are the hidden employment losses. For example, many full- and part-time workers have had their hours reduced; 44 percent of part-time workers have seen a reduction in their hours, pay or commissions; and a quarter of current part-time workers have been cut back from full-time positions. Additionally, many people have been forced to retire earlier than they had planned, with a good number of these people between the ages of 55 and 64, numbers that don’t show up in the unemployment rates. All of this leads to cautious spending, of course, but it also changes the way people spend their money.
Mintel looked at seven categories of typical consumer spending: eating at home, eating away from home, vacations, entertainment at home, entertainment away from home, home improvement and gift giving. It’s not terribly surprising, given the recent state of the economy, that the categories that are poised for stability and even growth are eating at home (34 percent of those surveyed said they’re dining in more often) and entertainment at home (which can also include food). No matter what the category, however, Mogelonsky pointed out that the keys to being successful today are trust, creativity and quality.
Trust and building relationships with customers have been major factors in the growth of the food industry. Creativity has generated such concepts as the “staycation,” made-up holidays like Best Buy’s start-of-football-season TV sale, and “car spas,” a one-day detailing service in lieu of buying a new car for the slumping, post-“Cash for Clunkers” auto industry. Quality almost goes without saying. Consumers are looking to invest in quality goods that will last longer or perform in a superior way. This could be true whether the goods are shoes or extra-virgin olive oil.
Mintel expects holiday shopping to be weak this year and for traditional impulse buying to be down. People are still shopping cautiously and adhering to the three Cs: compromising, consolidating and considering alternatives. The company suggests, however, that in just about every category, this will be the “year of the accessory.” In other words, DVDs and video games instead of a new home entertainment system, and wall paint instead of remodeling. What does this translate to in the gourmet food and kitchenware industry? I’m betting gadgets, cookbooks and upscale condiments for starters, as well as feel-good accessories like bakeware and serving pieces.
At the end of the day, it may well be that the triad of trust, creativity and quality will be the new mantra for the gourmet food and kitchenware business as we strive to get consumers back in their kitchens and around their dining tables. For more information about Mintel International, and to find out about future webinars, call 312-932-0600, e-mail [email protected] or visit www.mintel.com.