It goes without saying that an economic downturn gives rise to inevitable changes in consumer behaviour, particularly when it comes to the spending habits of the broader consumer market. The mere utterance of the word ‘recession’ invokes images of impoverished widows in breadlines, clutching crumpled coupons. Whilst there’s nothing particularly endearing about forced frugality, it appears that there’s something to be said for human innovation in the face of a financial crisis.
While some tend to face fiscal sobriety with sheer dread, there’s an ever-growing movement of consumers who, intent on embracing the current recession as a glass half full, are successfully revitalizing their lives and careers in a flurry of fresh ideas. Tightening the albeit non-designer belt is no longer considered unthinkable. In fact, it appears that this recession may well be remembered for introducing what some have termed ‘austerity chic’. Gone are the overtly ostentacious displays of wealth and glamour, thankfully to be replaced with tasteful simplicity, a desire for more natural beauty and a broader appreciation that sometimes less really can be more.
One of the more interesting trends in consumer behaviour during times of recession is the need for escapism from their imaginary financial manacles. Feeling tethered by fiscal sobriety, many consumers balk at the thought of literal sobriety as they turn to past-times such as excessive drinking, gambling and a number of more dangerous escapades in their attempts to forget their financial realities. More notably though is an increasingly large group of dexterous consumers who’ve turned to smart-shopping, ‘sell-suming’ and new entrepreunerialism in impressively innovative attempts to cut costs, generate additional income and strengthen their financial positions. These consumers are quite literally getting clever with their money as they consciously choose functionality over frivolity. Not content to be rendered hapless victims of recession, these consumers are redefining brand loyalty as they become more selective about their indulgences and more creative with their money.
And if large retailers think it’s a case of ‘business as usual’, they may need to think again. Recession-hit consumers are now seeking brands that offer an escape from reality, and they’re looking in entirely different places than before. The new, more discerning customer is harder to reach via any single medium as the Internet has quite literally fragmented the customer base through online marketing. Whilst some consumers are consciously cutting back on expenditure, others are being thoroughly intentional about seeking better value for their hard-earned buck.
Although frugality may appear to be standard operating procedure, it’s evident that it now comes hand-in-hand with innovation and a new form of escapism that is somewhat laudable. Shunning luxury restaurants and expensive get-aways, more consumers are regrouping as families and embracing home entertainment as a more affordable and enjoyable form of fellowship. No longer able to justify the costs of overseas travel, consumers are taking to exploring their own countries, embarking on local road-trips and embracing camping (or ‘glamping’) holidays. Dinners at expensive restaurants are being replaced by sunset beach picnics, whilst families are choosing to spend money on communal experiences rather than material purchases. Consumer trends are proving that the term ‘low-cost indulgence’ is not synonymous ‘forgettable experience’ as new and more exciting ways of entertaining, travelling and having fun are continually being defined. Consumers appear to be exerting a larger measure of control over their experiences, leisure activities and entertainment, all of which seems to resonate in the words of Robert Wringham, “When people become dependent upon companies or governments to entertain them, to transport them, to plan their days and to import their goods, they forget what it is to be free, alive and autonomous.”
It certainly appears that this economic downturn has resulted in some commendable consumer behaviour which, while some skeptics may consider it to be a form of escapism, many believe have resulted in a fuller appreciation for experiences rather than material goods, an increase in entrepreneurial innovation and a conscious return to family values. If these are indeed the unintended consequences of the global recession, then it’s evident that it’s not all doom and gloom. Escapism that reinforces innovation, encourages life experiences and values fellowship should be considered somewhat great.
Have a super day!