Recessionary Thoughts: The Consumption Quandary

February 4, 2009 at 12:33 pm Leave a comment

buybetterless2

This weekend I walked past the John Fluevog store in Soho, and was struck by their “Buy Better, Buy Less” promotion. In a time when shopping has ground to a halt and 70% sales are the new 30% sales, retailers are looking for new ways to connect with skittish consumers, an especially tricky thing for the luxury industry. One beacon of hope in high-end retail is the concept of buying higher quality, more durable goods, but fewer of them. While not an original thought (just ask your depression-era grandparents about the wastefulness of the past decades), durability has hardly been the backbone of the retail sector, or of pop culture as we know it. In fact, planned obsolescence is key to most business’  long-term strategies.

The “Buy Better, Buy More” wave of green products and free-trade-everything, has been followed by the harsh realities of the economic collapse. So while counter-intuitive from a traditional business perspective, I wonder if culturally, the time has come for companies to redefine their relationship with consumers on fundamental level: asking people to consume less. One viable way to do this would be to offering a more durable product, but augmenting revenue with service/maintenance add-ons. Fluevog for example, could offer re-soling services by cobblers who are experts at working with their designs, thus adding another year to your shoes. Skeptics will balk at this idea, pointing to the direct decrease in replacement shoe sales. But it’s a new era, and perhaps customer loyalty, the knowledge that resources are being maximized, and fresh revenue streams will become necessary differentiators. In most cases, keeping your customers may better than losing them all. –Kat

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