Ever since the downturn, some have asked to expect a nuclear winter in consumer markets. Consumers, they argue, will consume different and spend much less. Our free spending ways are over.
I disagree with this argument. If nothing else, it reflects the paucity and the modesty of the social science we have created to understand who consumers are and why they consume.
I wrote a piece yesterday for the Harvard Business Review blog which argued that when we look at the deep structural inducements for consumption, there are several reasons to believe that consumers will return from this downturn to once more party like it's 1999. The link is below.
It was only afterwards that it occurred to me that the new book by Lee Eisenberg is germane here. Have a look at This is Shoptimism: Why the American Consumer Will Keep on Buying No Matter What.
Eisenberg, Lee. 2009. This is Shoptimism. New York: Simon and Schuster. The Amazon.com order page is here.
McCracken, Grant. 2009. Why American Consumers Will Spend Lavishly Again. Harvard Business Review Blogging Network. November 24. here.
Like it’s 1999? I’m not sure. I agree that frugality is not a norm and that consumers will always aspire to enhance their lives, whether that means home renovating or jumping on the new Jimmy Choo shoes at H&M and living for a time in the shoes of Sex & the City’s Carrie. I believe however that Western consumers have learned something from excesses of the recent meltdown, have gained a sense of responsibility, and now factoring consequences – financial and external – into their consumption decisions. They will continue spending, but will spend more effectively.