Lessons From Condoms And Canned Goods

Okay, I’ll admit it, I used “condoms” in the title as a cheap trick to draw in readers. But don’t blame me, I’m discussing an article in Time Magazine called What Sells in a Recession: Canned Goods and Condoms.

The article uses Nielsen Co. data to discuss things that are selling (and not selling) in this economic environment. Here are some tidbits:

  • “Family planning” products, which include condoms and over-the-counter female contraceptives, were up 10% for the first two months of this year. My take: Couples are going out less, which is leading to a phenomenon that the article calls “cocooning.”
  • A catch-all category called “seasonal general merchandise,” which contains thawing salt, body warmers and gift packages with candy went up the most. My take: Even in a downturn, people need to deal with the cold and snowy winter, and candy is a more affordable Valentine’s Day gift than jewelry.
  • Canning and freezing supplies like jars, bags and containers were up 11%.  My take: Consumers are cooking in bulk to prepare for a lot of in-house dining.
  • Other categories in the top 20 include baking mixes and supplies, fresh-meat, vegetables and dry grains, dry pasta, cheese, wine and liquor. My take: Looks like a surge in home-cooked Italian meals. Yum!
  • Film and cameras dropped the most, a decline of 31%. My take: Less traveling and more contraception cuts the demand for picture-taking.
  • Sports and novelty cards dropped 26%.  My take: Could anything be more discretionary?!?
  • Magazines dropped 17%. My take: Part of a longer trend in the media industry. Some blogs can be even more engaging than magazines. 🙂
  • Cookies and ice cream cones dropped 10%. My take: People are opting for more home baked desserts.
  • Other products that dropped include air fresheners and deodorants, kitchen gadgets, lawn and garden items, and bath accessories. My take: I have no idea why this is happening, but houses are going to look and smell worse.

The bottom line: The recession windfall: romance and home-cooked meals.

Written by 

I am a customer experience transformist, helping large organizations improve business results by changing how they deal with customers. As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. I am also a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Simply put, I am passionate about spotting emerging best practices and helping companies master them. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. My “title” is Managing Partner of the Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm that helps organizations become more customer-centric. Our goal is simple: accelerate the path to delighting customers. I am also the co-founder and Emeritus Chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to the success of CX professionals.

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