As retailers hunker down and pray that consumers use their tax rebates for shopping sprees rather than socking them away, it is becoming increasingly apparent that we are headed toward a recessionary climate. Few retailers are bullish presently, and headlines of cost-cutting, job-pruning and consolidation have spread across a whole range of retail sectors.
This mood of retrenchment was apparent at last week’s Mailers’ Technical Advisory Committee meeting in Washington, DC, where Glen Walker, chief financial officer and EVP for the USPS, discussed the “very, very troubling” news that the USPS’ mail volume is down by 3% for the first quarter of fiscal year 2008. Yes, there was a rate increase last May, lest we forget — indeed, one DMNews reader commented on the story on our Web site that the USPS is fortunate not to have seen a greater decline than 3%, given the rate case. But Walker also attributed the figure to the rapidly declining economy.
A decline in overall marketing spend may be a very real fear for the industry at large. But while responsible companies will be picking through their processes carefully, looking for maximum efficiencies, there is an opportunity for direct marketers to claim their ground as a relatively recession-proof weapon. This is not an industry that sprays messages out willy-nilly, or has exclusively soft goals such as branding campaigns that don’t include an actionable element. Direct marketers can show the success or failures of their initiatives, and can act upon that by turning on a dime.
Marketing responsibly to consumers who need a hand prioritizing their spending is something our industry can seize upon, through the plethora of channels available. The key word here is “responsibly,” of course; failure to adhere to that will quickly erode the industry’s position of strength.