The Changing Consumer Spending

Consumer spending drives the U.S. economy, accounting for roughly 68% of the GDP. The spending includes everything we buy: food, services, entertainment, groceries, haircuts, and more. From the beginning of the year (when the economy was up), the nation has seen rising unemployment, and that means less wages to spend.

The impacts of the coronavirus pandemic are changing consumer behavior – what we spend our income on as well as how much we spend. As consumers have weathered the coronavirus pandemic and states have enforced lock-downs for shopping and entertainment, our spending and saving habits have shifted.

Interestingly, personal income rose 10.5% in April, the result of a rise in government rescue programs and household stimulus payments. But consumers also cut their spending on restaurants and hotels, as well as cut health care expenditures. In regards to large purchases, spending on autos declined 30% and furniture and appliance spending cut by 20%.

The first few weeks of the pandemic brought consumers out in mass to stock up on pantry items including toilet paper, soup, macaroni, beans, and other comfort foods. The next few weeks saw consumers buying more basic ingredients as they cooked more meals at home.

What’s next for consumer shopping changes?

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Poll students: In the past month, roughly how much money have they spent? What items have they purchased?
  2. Is this spending different than what they experienced before the coronavirus pandemic? How is it different?
  3. Show video from WSJ about spending: https://www.wsj.com/video/consumer-spending-slid-in-april-here-why-that-matters/14661D9B-8251-43EB-B082-EDDE09187E2F.html
  4. Discuss trends in items being purchased.
  5. How should companies be using these changing habits to their advantage? Should marketing campaigns change?

Source: Wall Street Journal; other news sources

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Working Out from Home

The impacts of the coronavirus pandemic is changing consumer behavior and the dynamics of many industries. We have seen shortages of essential items such as toilet paper, eggs, and flour. There has also been a steep rise in the sales and uses of technology as people have moved to working from home and dramatically reduced their social interactions. Virtually all aspects of our lives have been impacted in one way or another, including how we exercise and work out.

With gyms and fitness centers closed due to coronavirus concerns, people have moved to new ways to work out. New fitness routines include using old-fashioned home equipment, online Zoom workouts, and high-tech Internet-connected equipment. Many of the newer market entries also include artificial intelligence to help determine and guide workout plans.

The new equipment is decidedly interactive; some include motion-sensor cameras, 3-D modeling, A.I. generated coaching, automatic adjustments when the user is struggling, and mobile apps. These workout devices include stationary cycles, treadmills, weight-lifting equipment, and interactive mirrors. Most require a hefty initial investment plus a monthly subscription fee. Some even provide interaction during workouts with other people, and help build a community of patrons. However, if you want social interaction, you’ll have to wait for gyms to reopen.

Ready, set, go!

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Review key aspects of developing a product positioning map, including determining the axis labels for positioning.
  2. Review various fitness products and services. What products are competitors?
  3. Show a variety of newer, high-tech fitness devices:

Carol: https://carolfitai.com/

Tempo Fit: https://tempo.fit/

Bowflex: https://www.bowflex.com/

Tonal: http://tonal.com/

Hyfitgear: https://www.hyfitgear.com/

Peloton: https://www.onepeloton.com/

Mirror: https://www.mirror.co/

  1. Have each team research one of the companies. What does each provide? Cost? Market? Subscription? Activities?
  2. Then, have each team provide a positioning map based on their research of the companies.

Source: New York Times; Wall Street Journal; other news sources

 

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Meal Kits Rebound

Meal kits have been around for a number of years. When they first launched, the novelty and ease of use quickly drove the subscriptions up. But sales plateaued as competitors proliferated and differentiation between companies was missing. After all, how many meal subscriptions does a household need? The cost of the first sale was high, and competitors all seemed to be trying to reach the same target market. Growth stalled.

But, the coronavirus pandemic is changing the dynamics of the market once again. With more people staying at home, restaurants closed, and fear of the virus in crowded places such as supermarkets, meal kits are primed for a resurgence. According to Nielsen Research, consumer spending on meal kits in April of this year is nearly double the level from the same period a year ago.

Restaurants also are getting in on the action with Panera Break readying a launch of its own make-your-own salad and sandwich kits. It is being joined by other dining chains such as Denny’s, Chick-fil-A, Shake Shack, and others. Doing an Internet search for “meal subscription boxes” brings up dozens of options for meal and snack subscriptions!

Environmental conditions have a big impact.

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Discuss the importance of environmental scanning in marketing.
  2. What are the environmental factors that are impacting the meal kit industry?
  3. How can meal kit companies use this information to retain and grow their customer base?
  4. Divide students into team. Have each team research one of the following meal kit companies, or another of their choosing:

Hello Fresh: https://www.hellofresh.com/

Home Chef: https://www.homechef.com/

Sun Basket: https://sunbasket.com/

Blue Apron: https://www.blueapron.com/

Freshly: https://www.freshly.com/

  1. How are these companies different? How are they similar? What is the value offered by each company?
  2. Have students build a SWOT analysis chart for the company.

Source: Wall Street Journal; other news sources

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