April 2012 Intermediary A-Musing
Sweet Preservation for Businesses: Nostalgia
Placed between our desks the, not quite empty, box of Quality Street caught the corner of sugar-craving eyes. What’s a person to do? For whom, at some time or another, hasn’t put these confectionary coloured cellophanes to their eyes to see the black and white of life, turn kaleidoscope colour?
Indeed. … Sweet desire fulfilled, assorted coloured wrappers were strewn about, goading a yearning to view the world through the purple haze covering of a nut-caramel , or to take a golden toffee-penny perspective.
We do take our work very seriously; this wasn’t messing about whilst on duty, inattentive frippery or deviation from work in hand. No! This, something that many do but rarely admit to, wasn’t time wasting, this was a relevant business exercise.
Nostalgia is many things to many people. With a return to an experience, by the very nature of having increased knowledge, further questions are usually posed and, coffee break distraction by coloured chocolate wrap quickly turned into a juncture of sifting around in pursuit of preserving the relevant.
For example, today a Mars bar, is rarely purchased singly, is unlikely to be found in a shop that allows the senses to peruse and hardly bears a resemblance to Grandma and Grandpa Mars bar. Not only for those who have a penchant in hoarding their chocolate fix of aids to work, rest and play, does the generic chocolate multipack now exist. This newish option is also able to cater for the disappeared generic 2.4 family model, currently holding ten family types.
Socio-economic changes have affected the purchase, buying behaviour and consumption of many items from exclusive to mass produced, including the chocolate treat. Manufacturer brands have evolved to become established brands, with company growth, retail growth in general and marketing efforts providing variety and the addition of the ‘store brand’. Consumer purchasing power and awareness has evolved and made demands upon retailers; both grocer and artisan, having almost disappeared, now making a return. Whether impulse purchase or considered choice, variables associated with availability; taste experience, quality, reliability, value and self-indulgence, are now catered for.
The outer edge of a town might now have a high street, whilst a town centre might not, what is today a city centre might once have been a high street, where there once was a street might now stand a parade of shops, a once-upon space could be a supermarket, as much as a dump might have been transformed into a retail centre.
Even before this fragile economy, high streets didn’t necessarily reap their potential benefit; as chains took over they became homogenised and increasingly bereft as economic recession hit.
Currently, a time when task forces are put together for business lending, products are being manufactured abroad, shipped back for purchase only to be resent abroad again, a time of austerity for some yet profit for others, herding becomes a response to and from the masses, as control mechanisms squeeze, limited choice mutes awareness and disables opportunity. All businesses are susceptible to consumer attitudes but those that understand their market, product or service, how macro/micro economics affect them and the mechanisms behind their catchment markets are the businesses which, when well capitalised, with strong lines of credit are able to dominate their market position by adapting to change as it happens.
Choice remains an important factor for most in their spending decisions; distinctiveness remains the element that most profoundly marks out independent business. Seemingly choice is a value that consumers have consistently turned to both in a localised way, as a way of engagement and through being enabled to take control during periods of uncertainty. When going back to the future for retro reasoning means smaller shopping baskets, top-up shopping, community shopping on foot, home deliveries and knowing who you’re serving and who is serving you.
Finding quality to our ‘streets’ doesn’t require a dependency towards generic chocolate or reverting to the past through rose coloured (cellophane) glasses, however, connecting the past and the present is worthwhile to make sense of the future.