We are spending large amouts of time seeing bad news about the economy. It's still not clear if we're at a point where the economy is going to improve or if we're at a point where it's just going to continue to get worse.
The newspapers constantly serve us up news that tells us that things are going bad. The bank's own random surveys tell us that people are pessimistic about the future. Companies are laying off workers in their droves (according to reports) and hgue names are teetering on the edge of bankruptcy.
However the genuine figures I keep on seeing are not too bad at all. My clients are all going to spend more on online advertising next year. We are forecasting more internet sales. We are seeing problems from too much competition and the possibility that other people may be cutting prices more than us.
It's a confusing world. As deflation rears it's unknown head, we face an interesting world where the assumption goes from 'buy it now' to 'wait until it is cheaper'. That's not a world most marketers here have faced before. The usual immediacy message of 'SALE' is now not as effective.
We've been facing this problem with Christmas sales for the last couple of years - consumers have known that shops were going to cut prices towards the end of the season, and the shops have had to. This Christmas may see the first bucking of the trend.
Retailers have been pessimistic about their forecasts for Christmas this year. They worry that people will be stockpiling cash \ unable to lend for presents. This means they assume consumers will be spending less on Christmas. Shareholders are demanding that companies hang onto cash rather than investing it in stock. Therefore they haven't bought as much inventory as they normally do, meaning it is possible that shops will sell out.
What will happen then?
We won't see obscenely large January sales
We will see larger queues in shops
These two things will be fantastic for the retailers.
Lack of large January sales mean the retailers will hang onto more margin, making them more profitable businesses. This will in turn enhance shareholder confidence in them (something which is sorely lacking at the moment).
Larger queues in shops will be fantastic for me as it will encourage more people onto the internet. It will also be fantastic for shops as for once they will be able to recycle some urgency into their customers. There must come a point of 'sale fatigue' and I'm sure I've hit it. If I see a shop I like with a sale, I just don't bother popping in as I don't think it's siginficantly different from normal operation. I'm sure other customers are similar.
Overall a sold out Christmas (but not necessarily a good one in terms of total revenue for the shops) will improve matters on the high street. If they can't sell their inventory, expect January to be fantastic for bargain hunters, but the retailers will take a couple of years to recover.