In just one short year, we have seen NYC shift from a city of "keeping up with the Joneses" to one focused on "outsaving the Joneses." Now what does this mean? We have started to see a sea change in behavior.
Instead of comparing weekend homes, vacation destinations or slapping down the Black Amex, New Yorkers are now making "saving" a game of one-upmanship. Out with conspicuous consumption in with conspicuous savings. We of course have no anthropological proof of this trend, however it is something we are witnessing more often when out to dinner with friends or in conversations with work colleagues.
It is neither gauche to compare deals obtained on a new dress, nor is insider savings through, say, cardholder benefits taboo to mention in polite conversation. Instead, people point to their "Staycations" in place of former far-flung vacations and to practical vehicles purchased instead of to a husband's new Maserati. To show one's savviness in savings is to show your intelligence and general shrewdness.
Some might say we experience this so often because of our role in starting an online fashion sales site, Gilt Groupe, focused on extending our members designer fashion at insider prices (up to 70 percent off). And yes, our members do flock to us in the interest of showing us a new dress, a pair of earrings or work suit they purchased at a great price. They proudly display purchases on our site and are quick to mention the price point with a sense of satisfaction.
However we have personally witnessed this new behavior outside of work: amongst friends and family members. We do think that this general shift in behavior signals a new culture of saving in New York and nationally. There is self-assurance and a sense of "winning" when obtaining value that suggests the intelligent and in-the-know consumer... saves! This makes sense given Goldman Sach's recent prediction that "the national unemployment rate will reach 9 percent by end of 2009, and could continue rising into 2010." While times are certainly tough nationally, especially here in NYC, Gothamites are trying to promote their savviness in savings -- and we think they are intelligent for doing so. To miss this trend as a company or marketer is to be out of touch with the times.
From our vantage point at Gilt Groupe, people are stampeding online for our insider deals. And even though they are saving, and proudly so, they are still spending... And spending a lot! They spend, however, in a way that shows they are not willing pay for the overhead that comes with the prices at retail stores any longer. They spend not wanting to leave a store with three bags in each hand a la Sex and the City. And they spend, as long as in their spending, they are obtaining savings. Counterintuitive, but we think this new era of obtaining value in shopping is with us for at least another three years. We would love to hear your read on the topic. Are you seeing what we are seeing?