retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

There’s no easy way of saying this: everything you knew about yourself, your family, and your decisions is likely wrong. That is, of course if everything you knew about everything was based on your horoscope. Because whatever you thought your astrological sign was…well, it likely isn’t that any more.

Due to constant movements in the cosmos, the folks in charge of astrological signs recently came up with an announcement bound to shock us all: They moved the dates of virtually every birth sign and added a 13th sign, Ophiuchus, to the 12 we all know. In my case, I switched from being a level-headed member of Libra to a somewhat more difficult Virgo. (It’s hard to tell whom the Scorpios ticked off, but your sign is now down to a six-day period in late November. )

Truth be told, I really don’t care. I rarely pay attention to my horoscope and all I ever notice is that the predictions are written so broadly as to allow any interpretation anyone could want. I have a feeling that most people will be like me and barely note this change beyond a chuckle. Then again, there are some for whom this could be a life-changing event.

No doubt there also will be many cynics who will see this shift as a clever marketing ploy by the folks who sell astrological knick-knacks, the tattoo removal industry and, of course, the tattoo industry itself. (Leo the lion comes off and gets replaced by Cancer the crab. A win-win for both sides of a single industry.)

So why should we care? Because we, the food industry, does this same thing to shoppers all the time.

Think about the aisles of a supermarket and all the products that went from being commonplace at one time to demons years or decades later. Whether it was saturated fats or trans fats, carbs, sugar substitutes or eggs. One week we are told butter is better and then we’re told to switch to margarine. (I honestly can’t remember which one is healthier this week.) In short, our products and ingredients have reputations that are constantly changing.

And just as with the changing zodiac signs, we produce a mix of shoppers who are upset or don’t care or who think it is merely a clever marketing ploy aimed at getting them to buy something new. Because changes, like it or not, result in consumer confusion, frustration and cynicism unless they are provided clear and correct information guiding them on what happened and what to do.

That’s why we should pause to consider the issue of changing astrological signs. All those misplaced members of Gemini or Pisces will likely be ticked that their guideposts have been moved, but they’ll be even angrier that there is simply no place to air a grievance. Remember that when the guideposts on food change, as they do with regularity, they know where to complain. We need to build both happy and smarter consumers and that means we need to address changes that might not have been of our own doing in a way that shows we care.

There’s one more lesson in the world of physical science: magnetic north is moving. According to science journals, this happens virtually all the time due to shifts in the earth’s magnetic belts and molten rock beneath the planet’s surface. Again, I don’t understand all the reasons but I do get this: the direction a compass points is shifting, albeit slowly, away from what used to be the North Pole.

It too is a great business metaphor because the direction we need to travel is also constantly moving. If we stick slavishly to the same path, guided by the same piece of equipment, we might find it taking us off course. Just as if we trust our fates to our stars, we might find ourselves suddenly wondering why that perfect description of our personalities is now completely wrong.

Shakespeare had it right: ”The fault lies not in our stars, but in ourselves.” It’s up to us to change direction and up to us to educate those we serve in the changes that impact them.


Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at msansolo@morningnewsbeat.com . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available by clicking here .
KC's View:
Yesterday, Michael and I were chatting about his column, and I was fascinated by the notion that the astrological changes would have an impact on the tattoo business. And so, separated by 3,000 miles (Michael was in Oregon, I was in Connecticut) but connected by phone, we started doing a little online research, and here’s what we found...

Did you know that roughly 36 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 25, and 40 percent of people between the ages of 26 and 40, have a tattoo? Did you know that there are something like 20,000 tattoo parlors in the United States?

I was, to be honest, startled by these figures. (None of my kids, to my knowledge, are tattooed.) It is remarkable the extent to which something that not that long ago was considered to be only marginally acceptable now has become pretty much mainstream. We’re still at the point where tattoos are being covered up in many workplaces, but I’m guessing that this will also change at some point.

It is yet another marker of how the world has changed, and the extent to which businesses have to adjust their acceptability barometers. There’s nothing wrong with having standards, but we all have to adjust to broader cultural standards, or face possible irrelevance.

This isn’t always easy. I also saw a study saying that 14 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 50 have a pierced body part other than an earlobe. I still get a little queasy when a see a barista or checkout person with some metal thingie sticking out of an eyebrow or nose...but I may have to get over it.