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On this episode of Lochhead on Marketing, we are presenting some Pirates Perspective from our newsletter, Category Pirates about consumer spending trends.
Eddie Yoon, Christopher Lochhead and Katrina Kirsch of Category Pirates discuss the latest consumer spending reports and what they mean for the retail category and retail category queens. They also dive into a category opportunity for McDonalds and how it could impact the future of food delivery.
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The Changing Retail Landscape
Eddie Yoon examines the evolving economic landscape and its impact on U.S. consumers. Employing a Category Science lens, Eddie highlights significant disparities in economic indicators. Disposable personal income in July saw a mere 0.15% uptick, the year’s lowest, while personal consumption expenditures (PCE) surged by 0.82%, marking a 2023 high. This income-spending disconnect raises concerns.
Eddie notes the imminent return of student loan payments, averaging $503 per month, which may strain disposable income. Loan delinquencies, nearing 2020 levels, signal financial challenges. Notably, a fourfold increase in young adults aged 25 to 34 living with parents since the 1960s reflects economic constraints driving lifestyle changes.
Prompted by Christopher, Eddie also identifies two contrasting trends: robust growth in experiences and personal transformations versus declining interest in traditional goods. While international travel and categories like medical aesthetics flourish, traditional retailers like Target, Kroger, and Home Depot report declining revenues. Eddie predicts a future marked by consolidation and M&A, with only a select few brands and private labels surviving.
Navigating the Shifting Consumer-Driven Economy
Christopher Lochhead and Eddie Yoon then tackle the intriguing dual signals in the economy, driven by increasing digital influence on consumer behavior. On one hand, positive indicators suggest the American consumer remains a key economic driver, with retail sales growing by 0.6% in August and a forecasted real GDP growth of 3.5% for the third quarter.
However, Eddie Yoon emphasizes the underlying shifts: Consumers are driving economic growth through increased credit spending, but it raises questions about sustainability. Many are making significant changes in their financial habits, including declining college enrollments, reduced home purchases, and a lower birth rate, all contributing to a redefined economic landscape.
The trend toward single-person households, now at 29%, signifies a fundamental shift in the traditional nuclear household model. While the macroeconomic picture may still appear positive, these changes point to a significant remaking of the American economy, shaped by evolving consumer preferences influenced by digital transformations.
Christopher and Eddie then discuss McDonald’s recent announcement to phase out fountain drinks inside their stores by 2032, which highlights a significant shift in consumer behavior. Currently, 40% of their revenue is generated through app purchases, delivery, and drive-thru, indicating a decline in physical store visits. This trend reflects the changing preferences of Native Digitals, who prefer digital-first experiences and the conveniences they bring.
As consumers become more discerning and value experiences over material possessions, businesses need to adapt to these mega trends. Eddie Yoon points out that while some trends are favorable, like digital and app-focused sales, the shift in product mix poses challenges. McDonald’s heavily relies on the profitability of fountain drinks, which drive a substantial portion of their margins. However, the convenience of home beverages and changing consumer preferences may lead to a decline in the sale of large-size drinks at McDonald’s, impacting their profitability in this area.
To learn more about the Pirates’ solution to McDonald’s dilemma and more on consumer spending trends, download and listen to the episode. If you want to join in the discussion, subscribe to Category Pirates and find more Pirates Perspective buried around the beach.
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- Snow Leopard: How Legendary Writers Create A Category Of One
- The Category Design Toolkit: Beyond Marketing: 15 Frameworks For Creating & Dominating Your Niche
- A Marketer’s Guide To Category Design: How To Escape The “Better” Trap, Dam The Demand, And Launch A Lightning Strike Strategy
- The 22 Laws of Category Design: Name & Claim Your Niche, Share Your POV, And Move The World From Where It Is To Somewhere Different