ORLANDO, Fla. — The consumer's rebound from economic recession will not be a fast process, asserted speakers at the recent Food Marketing Institute Midwinter Executive Conference here.
“The American consumer will come back, but more judiciously than before the downturn,” said Dr. Martin Regalia, senior vice president and chief economist, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in a presentation.
He pointed to the labor market as a key indicator of where the consumer will be headed, but contended that employers aren't getting the support they need to create jobs.
“There's been a tremendous decline in the labor markets,” he said. “This has to be addressed if the economy is going to regain momentum. We're not seeing policies to regenerate jobs.
“We have to create an economy we haven't seen in the past. One that will create 2 million to 2.3 million jobs over a 10-year or more period. It will require deft economic policies.”
In another presentation, Thomas Blischok, president, Global Innovation and Shopper Marketing, Information Resources Inc., said consumers are still very skittish about the economy.
“Shoppers fear uncertainty,” he said. “They don't believe we're through with the economic sea change.”
Customers also continue to focus on deals, he emphasized. “We've taught shoppers how to shop on deal, and they'll continue to do that,” he said.
Blischok said companies need to streamline the shopping experience for consumers.
“Simplicity is the new strategic differentiator in shopping,” he said.
Simplicity involves addressing attributes ranging from deal structures to assortments, he said.
Tres Lund, chairman, president and chief executive officer, Lund Food Holdings, told the FMI audience that his company's proactive moves during the recession put it in a better position to compete as the economy emerges.
The company preserved cash for future investments, performed financial stress tests, reduced shrink and kept up remodeling activity, among other efforts.
“The consumer is coming back,” he said. “Cash is being freed up. … As we look at the second half, we have confidence we'll get through it.”