I just eavesdropped on a conversation between the managers of two local stores.*
They both noted that store traffic has decreased, and the telephone is ringing much more consistently, since the price of gas passed $3.50 per gallon. People are now calling to confirm inventory before they drive to the store.
There’s no doubt that, as surely as it’s effecting the rest of our economy, the price of gas is effecting retail sales, too.
There’s also no doubt that this is a time of great opportunity for those businesses who recognize what’s happening, and have the courage to take immediate action.
The change in consumer behavior will be short lived.
People will return to their old habits.
How do I know?
Because they always do.
When the Mother Earth News was a fledgling publication, people worried about protecting the ecology. Later they joined the conservation movement, then the environmental movement. Today, they’re enlisting in the green movement.
Roughly every decade the name changes. And every decade new people get involved. The old people are only willing to discomfort themselves so far.
Green is a great promotional tool.
Unfortunately, it runs counter to our consumer-centric way of life.
Have you seen the ads from the bottled water company claiming their thinner plastic bottle has less impact on the environment? Do you secretly wonder if people truly worried about the effects of plastic in landfills would drink tap water? They aren’t. They don’t. The Toyota Yaris gets 40 mpg with a standard gasoline engine. The Lexus LS 600h L is a hybrid which gets 22 mpg. Care to bet how many people are so concerned about the price of gas that they switch from the Lexus to the Toyota? They aren’t, and they won’t. For that matter, wouldn’t repairing the existing car rather than buying a new one be the ultimate in recycling? People worried about the cost of gasoline should logically move closer to their jobs, wouldn’t you think? Today the average home-owning family demands another bedroom, another bath, an attached two car garage, and at least 800 square feet more living space than they did 50 years ago. Will they give up those larger suburban homes to economize? They aren’t, and they won’t. Purchasing bedding, draperies, or carpets made of recyclable fabrics reduces the demand for new natural fibers by as much as 15 percent. More than 15 percent, and they wouldn’t be able to make the resulting fabrics fire retardant. Will people risk their families’ safety to recycle? They won’t, and they don’t. Do we really need fresh fruit in January? Apparently we do, even if it’s flown in from the southern hemisphere on giant transport jets with excessive “carbon footprints.” In any economy, some people will pay a premium to get exactly what they want.
Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not passing judgment. Frankly, my job is to help sell fruit in January. I’m merely pointing out the realities of human nature. People are willing to accept only a certain amount of discomfort before they revert to form.