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Everything Old is News Again

By: Nancy McDonald and Salvador Pliego
Posted: June 5, 2009, from the June 2009 issue of GCI Magazine.

“There’s an ill wind a blowin … and it’s bringing in a storm.” And with it, a backlash has taken place against what has always been taken to be the “American way.” Conspicuous consumption, it seems somehow, became extinct when you weren’t looking. The consumer has spoken, saying “no” to outrageous price tags and fad items. Consumers are now being forced into behavior heretofore alien to them. They’re closely re-evaluating what’s currently in their closets, their homes and, yes, in their beauty and fragrance collections. Consumers are discovering that their tried-and-true classic possessions still have merit, and they are rediscovering the charm of the basics.

This tight-fisted, antispending behavior is wreaking havoc for consumer products, and, more to the immediate point, it’s significantly impacting the “bulletproof” beauty industry, which has always—somewhat arrogantly, perhaps—been assumed to be sheltered from the storm.

Nancy: The consumer’s new role model is clearly Ebenezer Scrooge.

Salvador: What about those “it,” successful, sexy $1,000 skin care rejuvenators? Regardless, tightened spending may be a good thing. Nancy, didn’t you mention that you were enthralled by a classic economist who declared that the Great Depression was akin to a cold shower? Refreshing and invigorating. That economist has a point. Let’s look at this backlash as a wake-up call—albeit a rude one. We should take a second look at what is already in our own backyard. There is something to be said for the tried-and-true.

And with consumers’ trust factor now being as dicey as it is, what is seen as traditional is comforting. It’s back to the basics, and it’s about time!