retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

Given the current pace of change and challenge we all face, it’s hard to think ahead to the challenges yet to come. But the simple truth is that change is coming and much of it could present major hurdles for any business.

So better to get thinking about it now because the issues of the future promise to be as profound as anything we have today. And this is all without considering the impact of technology.


In the past television rating sweeps for the first half of February, NBC managed to fall to fifth place when it came to attracting viewers in the prime demographic between 18 and 49. That can largely be blamed on less than compelling programming and the seasonal hiatus of NBC’s two biggest draws: "The Voice" and NFL football.

Yet the bigger story is what network beat NBC. It’s old news that CBS, ABC and Fox led the field. The story is that Univision, a Spanish language network, defeated NBC and ran only slightly behind ABC.

No matter how you might feel about this issue, the reality is that the burgeoning population of American Hispanics promises wide scale change in all parts of life. Whether it’s voting patterns or the types of products growing in use at supermarkets everywhere, Hispanic influence is growing and promises to grow more.

Yet that’s not the only population change you need to consider. The Washington Post reportedly recently on the incredibly bleak outlook for Baby Boomers looking ahead to retirement. According to statistics in the Post, Boomers between age 55 and 64 have a median net worth of $120,000. Taken one step further, 53% of those in the Boom generation are considered at risk in retirement.

The long-term drop in real estate values, the lack of company supplied pensions, combined with widespread economic issues and lack of savings. have left the Boomer generation looking at bust years ahead. To give you a sense of how that could impact buying power, if Boomers turn $120,000 into annuities to produce some measure of regular income, they are looking at less than $600 per month. (Remember, half of those in the study have less than that amount of money.)

Put another way, to make ends meet Boomers need to go on a savings binge, plan on working well past typical retirement age or start paring back on their purchase decisions. None of that portends great economic news for the near future.

Their economizing won’t be a solitary affair though. As the Christian Science Monitor, among others, reported recently, the US birthrate has fallen to historic lows. Here again economics are playing a huge role. The young adult population has also been hit hard by the economic conditions of the past five years. Even as the economy has improved, some problems haven’t disappeared. Those with college degrees are facing both a tough job hunt on top of daunting college debts.

The result of that economic pressure is a steep decline in the birth rate, a problem long ago experienced in Western Europe and Japan, where in many areas retirees outnumber the young. The same pressures are blamed on the declining percentage of young people getting married and the continual rise in the average age of marriage.

Taken one by one, each of these scenarios should be enough for companies to consider fresh strategies for the future. How can you better position yourself for the quick growing Hispanic market? How might the values of the once spendthrift Boomers change as they start hitting 65 in record numbers? How would a slowing of the American population impact change your customers and associates going forward?

Incredibly, all three are happening together and not in a vacuum. Sure you’re busy, but the future keeps coming. Time to get thinking it seems.

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available by clicking here .
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