January marked the beginning of a not only a new year, but a new decade. And the beginning is less than auspicious. The nation as a whole seems to be holding its breath: is the recession really over or will we see another decline this year?
As many publications are prone to do, Modern Baking's January issue takes a look at what may lie ahead in the coming year. As I indicate in the story (2010 Bakery Industry Forecast, p. 14), the outlook is cloudy. No one really knows what to expect, and those making predictions are forecasting a dreary, long slog of a recovery. But hope is not lost.
One of the many things the baking industry has going for it is that people always need food. And people often turn to food, especially bakery products, to bring them comfort. What better way to make yourself feel better than spoiling yourself with a cookie or Danish from the bakery? Not a huge expenditure but a lot of good feelings.
Consumers may need a lot of comfort as they seem to be hunkering down for the haul and closely watching their pennies. Tackling their feelings of doom and gloom will take effort. In May, when Modern Baking polled retailers for its 2009 Retail Bakery survey, a sense of optimism permeated the answers; while things may be bad, only better things were on the horizon. Some of those feelings of optimism have dissipated as consumers continue to stubbornly holding onto their cash.
According to a Nielsen poll, consumers plan on buying less on credit and intend to save more even if the economy improves. This little stat generated some skeptical, raised eyebrows in our office. Can a habit of buying on credit that has been well established for the last few decades really be wiped out with one recession?
Who knows? It does not seem likely, but stranger things have happened. And, consumers are scared right now. I only know that I did cancel my order for a purse and refrained from buying a cute pair of boots (both outside the realm of my normal behavior) in order to save money, and due to the fact that I need either like I need another hole in my head. But I didn't refrain from spending on food. If I can't walk around in cute boots, I have to take comfort in something.
Granted, my one incidence of fiscal responsibility does not indicate any type of trend in consumers' behavior as a whole, but I can't be alone in deciding that food is worth spending my hard-earned money on. Just be glad you aren't selling boots or purses.