Like many consumers, I run the gamut from shopping at high-end department stores to bargain-basement discounters. I’ll shop wherever I think I’ll get the best deal on what I need at the time. This past weekend, I went on one of my shopping trips, deciding to first hit an off-price retailer that specializes in discount apparel. What I saw in the parking lot was truly a sign of the times. In this off-price retailer’s parking lot were rows and rows of high-end foreign import cars . . . Lexus, Mercedes, BMW . . .
A year ago, these makes of car would be the exception rather than the rule in this parking lot. My point is, the current economic environment is changing the customer base for a significant number of retailers. Affluent consumers may be trading down for some purchases, and other middle-income consumers may be looking for even bigger bargains. These changes in buying behaviors are impacting retailers across the board by changing who their customer base is. These customers that are changing their buying behaviors likely have different lifestyles and needs, and respond to different in-store and out-of-store marketing offers than the historic customer base for these retailers.
Have you noticed that the parking lots at your stores look different these days? If you have, it may be time to better understand who your customer is. If you have a profile for your customers that is more than a year old, or if you’ve never invested in understanding who your customer is, now is a great time to do so. A comprehensive look at your customers can help you meet your entire customer base’s needs and expectations now and hopefully hold on to these new customers when the economy turns around.