Yesterday we began this series with a long introduction and a focus on recent housing industry/economic data. In summary, in our view at least, housing will continue to do all it can to keep the U.S. economy from getting better.
What else should strategic marketers be thinking about as they evaluate plans for the balance of 2012?
Next up – the general marketplace.
A phrase you might want to get comfortable with is “sales pulled forward.” The Commerce Department reported that December retail sales fell (excluding auto sales) from November’s level (with lots of use of “unexpected” in related business articles). Meaning, the “great” sales during Black Friday 2011 were sales pulled forward from December, exactly what we predicted on December 1.
Exhibit A? Our friends in the consumer electronics space, off nearly 4% in December on a month-to-month basis.
So far this year, Commerce calculated that retail sales were up roughly 1% for each of January and February (again, excluding auto). With record-breaking warmth across the country, those data points may very well represent – wait, here it comes – sales pulled forward. March and April retail sales data will be a critical tell. Worth putting in your “alerts” or tickler file.
Meanwhile, what are they doing and saying on the other side of the counter?
McDonald’s, who seized the recessionary moment back in 2008 and piled on the market share, recently stated it would reload its weaponry. MORE promotions for MORE “value-priced” menu items, including the downgrading of cookies and ice cream cones to the lowly dollar menu.
And how about this from Darden Restaurants management, asked to portray the immediate near-term environment, during the Q&A portion of its most recent earnings call:
“If you look at today's environment across the [casual dining] industry, it is somewhat weaker than it was during the holiday and immediate post-holiday period.”
Which, as pointed out above, was essentially a field of crickets.