I speak to allot of business people every day.
From bowling and entertainment industry people to automotive dealers to software developers, to restaurant owners to distributors and manufacturers of high tech and low tech products.
Not one of these folks has indicated that business is good or at least improving. There is almost a quiet (but angry) acceptance, grudgingly so may I add, that this “new normal” is here to stay and that the future isn’t all that bright.
Smarter minds than mine have dissected the reasons for all this, but in my simple point of view. I think its all about housing. Even when the stock market went into the tank during the “tech crunch”‘, people still had their housing “asset” and that was continuing to increase. So if we felt less wealthy because our portfolios went down, we secretly knew that our house was “our safe” place; our last bastion of economic solidarity.
With the hosing meltdown of 2008 to present, consumers looked around and found they were naked, out in the cold with no back up asset. Not only did their 401k’s take a major hit, but their homes (THEIR HOMES, FOR CRISSAKE!!) lost value.
In fact, according to a recent Standard & Poor report the ratio of total mortgage debt to property value now stands at 69.8%. In some areas like Las Vegas NV and Orlando, FL this ratio is 119% and 100% respectively. In Warren MI, its 88.4% in Nassau and Suffolk County NY, it is 45.4%.
Further reports indicate that for every $1,000 lost in property value, each individual consumer cuts back anywhere from $20 to $70 a year in spending.
Doesn’t sound like much, but if you put it all together, from 2005 to 2009, consumer spending decreased by $240 BILLION DOLLARS. This decrease represents about 1.7% of annual economic activity, enough to be the difference between mediocre economic growth and healthy growth.
What has happened is that people have realized that the economy is not going to get better any time soon, so they have stopped spending. Period.
I hear it every day from bowling proprietors. They tell me how their open play and bar business has taken a big hit, especially liquor. Even beer companies like Bud and Miller report very soft sales with some markets being off as much as 50%.
So what are you supposed to do?
In good times and bad, customers are first and foremost people.
And people always want to do business with people they trust and who they believe really care about them. In this economy, your number one job is to prove to your customer that you are a member of the community who cares about the community. (Why would you not?)
Simply stated. Be their friend and continue to build on the relationships you have with them. Here’s seven (7) actions you can take right now
- Go back to your existing customers and invite them in with your very best offers. Best beer offers, liquor specials…all within the confines of your state laws of course
- Communicate with them about ways to save money and live better. Be a resource they can trust for helpful information.
- Be more visible in the community. sponsor local events, get involved in fund raising, put out the “Christmas Toys for Tots” cans early.
- Work with area merchants to co-promote. Distribute other merchants coupons that will save your customers money and time.
- Give free games away to get people to bowl paid games
- Create frequency programs where they can get premiums for bowling more.
- Make sure your people respect and honor the customer and treat him with more dignity than ever.
As people settle into lives of believing they are less prosperous, discretionary income is the first thing to go
But if you show them that having quality family time in a safe and clean environment is something that IS vital to their well being and can prove your center’s “value proposition”, you can survive this cycle
For more information on what you can do to retain and grow customers, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org