In a Christmas-season column for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Matt Thornhill heralded the dawn of "responsible consumerism," or, as he referred to it more colorfully on this blog, the "new fru." While everyone is awakening to the obvious, that consumers are curtailing their borrowing and spending in response to the recession, Matt contends that the roots of parsimony go deeper than a downturn in the business cycle. Some choice quotes:
The [Baby Boom] generation that put the mass into consumption is now at the stage of life where people naturally shift focus from the material to the ethereal. What’s fascinating (or worrisome, if you’re in a retail or consumer-products business) is that the impact of this shift on America’s consumption-driven economy is just beginning.
This shift away from spending by our largest demographic group coincides with a larger societal trend towards sustainability. Consumers of all ages are thinking more about the environmental impact of their purchase behavior and consumption patterns. In a national study we conducted among all adults in late summer, before the economic meltdown, 80% of all consumers told us they think or act in a “green,” or environmentally responsible fashion. Green is mainstream, and here to stay...
One last ingredient to this perfect storm: the worst recession since the Great Depression. Put all three trends in a blender and the future for marketers is grim indeed. Mass consumption, the underpinning of the American economy since 1946, is dead, dead, dead.