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Recession-Proof Retailing

Working paper #650
Bertrand Pellegrin

Consumer spending has steadily declined since the beginning of the year, following a weak Christmas season. In a May 2008 survey, 58 percent of consumers agreed “We are in a recession,” and indicated they plan to curb spending or carefully consider how they spend. A recession is a time for retailers to go back to basics, that is, to get the merchandise right, communicate what the product does (with the right message), and show why the consumer needs the product. The author presents a number of retailing strategies to accomplish these ends: understanding the desires of the consumer, such as “This will last a long time and never lose its value,” “I will be able to share this with my family,” or “It’s a classic item that can be used every day”; new retailing formats such as pop-up stores and a more effective online presence; and revamped outlet stores. A successful business doesn’t rest on its laurels. Instead, it refreshes itself in order to stay compelling and relevant, tapping into an evolving audience with evolving needs.

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