Blog: Leonie BarrieWhat does economic slowdown mean?

Leonie Barrie | 18 March 2008

The US, and with it perhaps the global economic slowdown, is hard to get away from at present. Hardly a day goes by, it seems, without a constant bombardment of figures that are supposed to point towards impending doom.

These are then backed up by armies of economic editors, using terminology I haven't heard of since my days in an economics classroom (my favourite yesterday was deliberating) to explain how my house price is linked to the certain collapse of another US financial institution.

And whilst I watch the plight of Northern Rock here in the UK and Bear Stearns in the US with great interest, I remain strangely disassociated from the events because it is still hard to see how all this is actually affecting the industry I write about.

That may all be about to change with figures (yes more figures) released this week. Whilst the plight of Bear Stearns may seem a distant issue to many in the style industry so far, figures from Nielsen suggesting US consumers are making fewer shopping trips as the economic downturn bites, is of a far more personal concern.

The figures reflect the fact that consumers are now looking for ways to combine errands and save money, Nielsen said.

In a bid to battle rising fuel prices and other economic pressures, Nielsen reported that consumers only made an average of 59 trips to grocery outlets in 2007, compared to 61 in 2006.

Mass merchandise shopping also saw a dip, with only 15 shopping trips last year, compared to 16 the year before. The convenience sector remained flat, with an average of 14 trips per household, while supercentres saw 27 trips, compared to 26 the year before.

The research, however, showed that while shopping frequency across most retail channels is flat or on a decline, supercentres, which enable consumers to combine shopping trips with more items in one store, continue to show growth.

"Value and convenience are more important than ever as rising gas prices impact where and how often consumers shop," said Todd Hale, senior vice president of consumer & shopper insights, for Nielsen Consumer Panel Services.

"Long-term trends show us that all value retailers - supercentres, warehouse clubs and dollar stores - are gaining in their quest to grab shoppers."

The economic slowdown is already a grim reality for many in the financial community with more US and European financial institutions predicted to fall in the coming months. But expect the impact of this complicated economic picture to increasingly become a reality for us too.


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