The unemployment rate is improving, but not much: January’s rate of 8.3% was down only slightly from December’s 8.5%.
And retail growth is on shaky ground: According to the National Retail Federation, sales are expected to grow 3.4% in 2012, but that’s down from last year’s growth of 4.7%. And it’s a far cry from the 12% growth rates of the early 2000s.
In fact, Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the National Retail Federation, said in January, “Stubbornly high unemployment and continued uncertainty over the prospects for job growth will continue to dampen the outlook for industry retail sales growth in 2012.”
Like many in the retail industry, you’ve probably been too busy trying to keep business alive to study the details of how the unrelenting lack of jobs has affected your customers. Of course, you know business is down, but what’s behind the story and what can you expect?
We used our profiling capabilities to look at nine consumer segments that have been hit hardest by unemployment to better understand how typical customers are faring — and what the future may hold for them. Each group comprises at least 1% of the U.S. population, which is statistically significant.
Pay particular attention to these three household types: Moderate Conventionalists, Affluent Urban Professionals and Stable Careers. Otherwise known as the middle class, this is where substantial buying power is shrinking. And that should cause the most alarm to classic retailers — whether you’re a department store, a mall chain store or an upscale chain restaurant.
These are the up-close faces of the consumers you need to keep. The people you need to bring back through your doors. And reach out to help until they’re on their feet again, however long that may take.