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Is ‘Thriftism’ set to become the new ‘black’?

Posted by Lee on October 23, 2008

The economic storm has yet to effect the average New Zealander yet, but the clouds are gathering and people are already starting to think twice about what they buy, why they buy it, and how they flaunt it.

We live in a society where no matter what income bracket we are in, we tend to spend up to the limit of that stratum. Peer pressure amongst different groups has created an environment where there is a relentless need to upgrade, improve, extend, and visibly better ourselves.
Does this race to consume make people feel any happier? Not really, because it is a relentless, never-ending treadmill, with no rest periods in between the need to acquire.

However, that may all be about to change. People, through necessity are starting to keep their hands in their pockets, and their credit cards in their wallets. And like any addictive behavior, going ‘cold turkey’ is tough. However, after the first few weeks / months of pain, the resilience of the human spirit will find a way to bounce back again, and in a world where one of the most popular leisure pursuits has become ‘retail therapy’, this will manifest itself in a number of ways:

1.    At a personal level, the rediscovery of the old ‘Needs, Wants and Desires’ way of living, instead of the ‘Desire, Desire, and Desire’ society we’ve become (further exacerbated by the ‘I want it and I want it now’ cry of Generation Y). We will relearn prioritization, and start to live a little more by the mantra of ‘What do I need? What do I want? What do I desire?’  – And in that new order, we will once again respond more positively to meeting our needs, then treating ourselves with the ‘wants’, and finally setting goals to attain the things we really desire.

2.    After an enforced period of time without impulse buying, a new appreciation that when we look around our surroundings and living spaces, there is very little that we actually need. When we do find ourselves with some genuine disposable income and succumb to the ‘retail therapy trip’, we can walk around the same stores that in the past were ‘purveyors of desires to be met’, and realize that perhaps we don’t really need to spend those hard earned and saved for disposable dollars.

3.    Living a little more simply can feel quite invigorating. For sure, it may mean going out less, and spending less at restaurants, bars etc, but in return, people will reconnect with each other by entertaining at home, cooking for the family, and spending time in the great outdoors at the weekends. Does this all sound a little unbelievable right now? Of course it does, because it’s like we’re addicts who have just found that our dealer is no longer going to be around. But just stop and reflect for a moment. When asked about some of the best holidays they’ve had, many New Zealanders sigh wistfully, and reminisce nostalgically about the family holiday at the Bach, or camping out without TV or mobile phone coverage. A holiday where friends came over to help cook at the barbeque. Where on a wet day, entertainment involved playing cards or board games, or just chilling out and catching up on some reading. If the weather gods were kind, then beach cricket, volleyball, fishing, or a walk along the water’s edge were the order of the day.

In these tumultuous, uncertain economic times, we will start to see people trading down, not only through financial necessity, but also because it will become distasteful to continue to flaunt overt examples of consumerism.
People are always going to be people, and all it takes is for some mavens to make ‘thriftism’ seem like a cool personal choice, and it will catch on.
However, to marketers out there, do not despair – this is not the end of ‘Buying’, it may just be the start of a new movement, one of ‘Buying well’.

Who knows, this crisis may be a blessing in disguise, providing an opportunity for people to take a break from the consumerism treadmill before climbing back on and moving at their own pace all over again.

As marketers, here are some possible positive trends to look out for:
–    An increase in entertaining at home. People may actually use their celebrity chef cookbooks now, rather than just placing them on their bookshelves to impress their friends.  This should be good news for liquor stores, the fresh counters in supermarkets, and specialty food stores.
–    As the housing market looks more uncertain, an increase in DIY activities as people move towards ‘doing-up’ rather than ‘trading up’.
–    MIY (make it yourself) and home crafts increasing – watch out for all those novice knitters!
–    Gardening, already one of the nation’s biggest recreational pastimes, but with a more productive focus – growing your own food.
–    Recycling clothing and boutiques / second hand goods-  acquiring a new cache’.
–    Growth in the sale of ‘Little Luxuries’ – smaller things that allow people to treat themselves and  feel pampered – think chocolates, cosmetics, bath bombs, aromatherapy etc

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One Response to “Is ‘Thriftism’ set to become the new ‘black’?”

  1. Swap said

    I hope the market situation improves.

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