Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Upside of the Recession

In the recent Boston Globe article Rooting for a Recession, writer Renee Loth noted that the recession is having a curious upside. Having had to reign in their driving and spending habits, people are finding that a simpler life can be a satisfying life. With more time on their hands, they're living greener, gardening, spending more time with family and friends, taking up hobbies, and discovering new meaning in life beyond the mall.

Of course, marketing opportunity knocks even in a recession. While sales of SUVs and trophy homes are flat, other products that speak to a culture turning its back on conspicuous consumption are doing well. Such as Christopher Peacock kitchens like the one shown at left, as noted in Top-Shelf Kitchens by Penelope Green in the Providence Journal. And the $125 can of paint observed by trend-spotter Faith Popcorn (who introduced the word "cocooning" into our lexicon):

“How can $125 for 2/3 of a gallon of paint speak to anyone but the super-rich in this cool-not-to-consume economy? Because while conspicuous consumption is definitely out, consumption that expresses timeless values – concern for the environment, a sense of history, genuine craftsmanship, “authentic” materials and design – is still definitely in. Consumers at all income levels are still willing to pay a premium and forego other purchases to participate in these brands that include a sense of security along with their high price tag.”

Obviously, the recession will have disastrous effect on people whose livelihoods depend on failing industries and unsustainable practices. But for people who can afford high-end products, the desire for products made with a concern for the environment, historical sense, craftsmanship, and authentic materials and design is a promising trend.