" Carr-Michael have been effective at developing the business and highly cost effective. They combine board level strategic direction with practical operational process development and implementation "

CEO Online and telesales retailer

Authentic Wins Every Time


When Harry Met Sally

One of the most remembered and talked about scenes in cinema history. The more than rather delightful Meg Ryan is playing Sally, sitting opposite the very funny Billy Crystal in a diner. Sally retorts that she can fake an orgasm and no man would know any different. Harry doesn’t believe her. We know what comes next to speak... The greatest faked orgasm in (reputable) cinema history. After which a lady on an nearby table turns to the waitress and says “I’ll have what she’s had”! Great soon as she finds out it was all fake, then where will that leave her? Authenticity is the name of the game.

Recessions change buyers’ views of what they value from products and services. We have all seen the move of major supermarkets to “value” ranges to meet customer demand ( and to hold onto hard fought for customers who are defecting to low cost stores like Aldi, Netto and Lidl).

But is this “value”? In some cases for some customers the answer is “yes” for others “no”. Some products and companies will suffer more in this recession others will do well. It depends on whether or not what is on offer is changed to meet customers’ changing needs. Low cost, bargain shops will do well. Matalan, TK Max, Poundland, Primark (or PriMarni as a group of students call it) are expected to see increased revenues and profits as customers trade down – or is that across? – from other brand name stores. But it is not as simple as this.

I was listening to the local news this morning about traders in Northampton market. “Wow” you would think, “they must be doing well”. Guess what, one fruit a veg trader was saying it was tough but he was going to get through it. He was working 6 days a week and 16 hours a day and he would weather the storm. He would continue to service his local customers properly with good quality produce as he had always done.

Another trader selling clothes had a different tale: “we saw the recession coming 12 months ago. People started asking for cheaper alternatives. So we changed what we bought in and went for even lower cost items that people could afford.” She had worked smarter. She changed her products completely lowering the average sale price but maintaining her margin.

Different strategies for different traders in a difficult market. One solution will not fit all issues but one core fact remains. Authenticity wins every time. The budget brand retailers have seen customers come to them, but their competitors have responded. So what do they do? - encourage customers to think it is smart to be frugal. Frugality meets a core need of customers in this recession. It is authentic, valued and sustainable. So too with the market traders. One kept to his good quality fair price range of fruit and veg, sustaining a hard worked for reputation. The other kept to her hard fought for reputation of clothing the community at least cost. Both were authentic responses. Going down the opposite path is failure. Short term fixes, smoke and mirrors and phantom value ultimately drives customers away.