Posted tagged ‘Economy’

Hiber-nation

April 3, 2009

 

An article in the online newsletter Engage: Moms recently defined the new American family as one that does not go out much – to shop or to entertain themselves. Because of the fragile state of the economy, moms, as gatekeepers to family purchasing, are being very, very careful fiscally. According to the author, Kyla Lange Hart:

 

  • Families are spending more time at home, less at malls or restaurants
  • The exception: Movies are doing well – it seems to be the one (relatively inexpensive) luxury we currently allow ourselves.
  • “Pride of purchase” now comes from not buying, rather than buying and boasting about it, or from choosing an inexpensive purchase (lipstick) over a pricier one (that dress).

 

The article posits that there is a sea change in progress, “defined by a new set of consumer values.”

 

For more, visit Engage: Moms

 

Marketers, this suggests a significant attitude shift. What are you doing to appeal to it? One approach may be to focus on the investment value of a product – positioning it as a long-lasting essential (e.g., wooden toys that endure over time and work for multiple ages, multi-purpose furniture or styles that “grow” with a child). Another is to introduce products designed to entertain families while they are “hibernating” at home.

 

Moms, is there a change in how and what you buy? What are you still buying and why? What have you backed away from entirely?

Pink Slip (Baby) Blues

March 30, 2009

While the economy is slamming everyone without discrimination, there is one category of laid-off employee who may feel the pain more than others – the mother-to-be. While some women may view losing their jobs at this stage as a “blessing in disguise” – the unexpected opportunity to spend more time with their new baby – the last thing others want is to find themselves unemployed just as they are about to face major additional expenses in the form of hospital bills and a new mouth to feed – especially if their former company doesn’t allow them to carry over health insurance. If they’re single moms or if their spouses or significant others have also lost their positions, the scenario is even more dire.

 

Yesterday’s New York Times noted that there are no laws against dismissing a pregnant woman or a woman on maternity leave – as long as she is not being let go because she is pregnant or a new mom. Yet some laid-off women maintain that while “the economy” was cited as the reason for their departure, their pregnancy may have contributed.

 

For more, see “When the Stork Carries a Pink Slip.

 

Employers, have you had to let a pregnant staff member go? What issues did you face?

 

Moms – have any of you lost your job while pregnant? Did you feel there was any discrimination involved? Has your pregnancy made it more difficult to find another position?

Toy Ploy

March 20, 2009

 

While many marketers believed that parents would continue to splurge on children during the recession, that may not be the case, at least when it comes to toys. According to yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, families appear to be significantly reducing toy buying—especially when it comes to pricier playthings. They are doing so primarily because they need to but also, in some cases, on principle – to teach children about excessive spending. In the process, parents have been taking steps that range from shielding their kids from toy advertising to shifting focus to family outings over material things. The article points out that toy manufacturers such as Mattel and Hasbro are offering less expensive alternatives this year.

 

Retailers and manufacturers—what impact are you seeing and what are you doing about it? Parents, have you changed how you buy toys for your children? If so, in what way?

 

For more information, see “Pricey Toys Are Going the Way of Dinosaurs.

 

Daddy Dearest

February 9, 2009

 

Last week’s post talked about dads who don’t do their fair share of parenting. All that may change – may have to change — as more fathers find themselves at home because they’ve lost their jobs. With the January unemployment rate for men hitting 7.6%, couples not only have to deal with the psychological stress of a lay off, but may also have to reinvent the parenting paradigm.  A potential seismic shift awaits as a family’s tradition clashes with new needs and expectations.

Will men get as involved in parenting as mothers historically have, and, if so, how will dads feel about their new role — and how will moms react to giving up control? Are there certain components of parenting that dads will gladly adopt while ignoring others?  Will the family dynamic be altered forever? And, from a business perspective, will companies who have always targeted moms now include dads in their marketing?

What do you foresee happening as the employment crisis deepens?

Good News, Bad News

January 16, 2009

 

In this economy, the good news for working moms is that more women are holding onto jobs than men are. The bad news: The fields that women dominate generally offer more stability – but less pay. Seventy-five percent of workers in health care and education are women, according to economic consulting firm IHS Global Insight. Employers added more than half a million jobs to those two fields combined in 2008. Men, meanwhile, represent 93% of workers in construction and 72% in manufacturing – industries in which 1.4 million jobs were lost during the same period. Since the recession began in December 2007, the jobless rate for men jumped from 4.4% to 7.2%, while the rate for women rose from 4.3% to 5.9%. Women are also more likely to work part time than men (25% vs. 12%), which could make women less vulnerable to cuts. The reason: Because part-timers do not receive benefits, they are likely to cost employers less.

 

No, No Nan-ny

December 17, 2008

As an increasing number of professional men and women lose their jobs or suffer major pay cuts, they are not only changing their buying habits, but also eliminating or cutting back on what was once the given support system for every respectable, time-pressed, multi-tasking, middle and upper-middle class working mom – the nanny/babysitter/caregiver.

 

While it’s easy to scoff at this “loss” – clearly, it’s insignificant when compared to, say, forfeiting a home to foreclosure, and many would consider having an ongoing caregiver an indulgence to begin with – it’s nonetheless a real example of how, at least in major cities such as New York and Los Angeles, the financial crisis is impacting social trends. When it comes to caregivers in particular – whether they are called nannies or babysitters – deciding to end a relationship is potentially fraught with pain on multiple sides: To the mom, a caregiver — especially one who has been with a child for a long time — is often like part of the family. The child is attached to her, the mother relies on her and, often, the caregiver herself has her own family to provide for. Guilt reigns supreme.

 

In the past, when a child outgrew the need for a full-time caregiver — I remember this well from when my son was younger – moms tried hard to find another position for their beloved babysitters, posting signs around the neighborhood, advertising in the local paper, spreading the word via friends. Today’s mothers are doing the same – but just as there are fewer jobs for professionals, there are now fewer professionals who are hiring caregivers in this economic climate.

 

Although it would seem that letting go of the caregiver is a logical step – after all, with time on their hands, an out-of-work mom or dad can pick up on the responsibilities they had initially delegated – the scenario is not really that clear cut. Who, after all, is going to watch the child as her mother tries to find another job or as dad redoubles efforts to replace clients that have left? And what about cases when the parents still have jobs, but their work hours and thus pay have been significantly reduced? Then what?

 

To make up the slack, parents are looking to relatives, moving to back-to-back shifts so that they can trade off child care duties, trying to work from home, taking their children to the office or otherwise engaging in sometimes elaborate and exhausting juggling acts. In the end, what will this all mean for the family dynamic?

 

Readers, what has been your experience? I invite your comments.