Monday, February 23, 2009

How consumers shop today - cautiously.

Bling is Dead. Long live the Bling.

Here's an excellent article on how consumers are thinking and shopping today. The culture of, "I want it, so I can afford it if I charge it" is dead. Bling is dead, or at least immoral, according to the article. I never could afford bling in the first place, so I've been shopping Marshall's, Dollar General and thrift stores for years. I mean, why pay full price for anything, when everything is always on sale or available for a dollar?

Lots of people like to shop, but these days, before they arrive at the checkout, they put back some of the stuff they picked out. Kind of like a sport fisherman returning the fish he catches to the lake. They've had the pleasure of the quest, but they'd rather keep that $7.99 in their pockets to buy groceries rather than have that really cool cashmere sweater on unbelievable Final Clearance.

Folks, you can't eat a cashmere sweater. Or the de luxe image it projects. Which presents a challenge for marketers who trade on image, rather than utility. If you can buy a couple of pounds of nice fish with your last few shekels, why would you buy a sweater instead?

Don't get me wrong: I'm no fan of the Sham-Wow and other 800-number items, but heck, at least the DO something, e.g., the Sham-Wow. It soaks up liquid like a demon. But your cashmere sweater just looks cool. Sure, it'll soak up a spill, but then you have to have it dry-cleaned.

Cost matters today, more than ever. Even the (recently) rich are hurting. They're hiding their faces while shopping at consignment shops (or even -- horrors! -- thrift shops). Let's face facts: unemployment is headed toward the highest rate since 1997 -- around 9.5%. Middle-class Americans are showing up at food pantries. So if you have expensive stuff, don't flaunt it. At least put a sign on it saying, "Purchased before the economic crisis." You'll be safer that way.

But you know what? Even if you are economically challenged, you can look like a million for considerably less by using a little imagination. You can chance upon nearly new designer fashions for a trifle at thrift or consignment stores. A friend of mine purchased a 100% cashmere winter coat at a thrift shop. The only problem was that it was a foot or two too long. The coat cost $10.00. A tailor shortened it for $35.00. Total cost: $45.00 for a beautiful camel-colored cashmere coat. A bargain! and it looks terrific on her.

Be imaginative. Shop smart. It's the fashion, dear.

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