Thursday, February 26, 2009

Is cheap the new green?

If you had asked us a year ago what the most important trend for businesses was, and for children-related businesses in particular, we wouldn’t have hesitated for a nano-second – GREEN, GREEN, GREEN. An amazing variety of products and services all aimed at consumers with an appetite for all-things environmentally responsible cropped up and inspired us all to do a little better. But the shaky global economy has changed things. It’s been a while since I heard a company talking about how green they are…

Here’s a story I found interesting. Amy recently popped into a posh grocer in midtown Toronto. This store is one of a row of shops wryly known for their steep pricing as ‘The Five Robbers’. I don’t want to give you the wrong idea about Amy’s spending habits – it’s just that one of these Robbers carries a chocolate cake that you would practically mortgage your house for (and you almost have to). Amy noticed that a whole handful of products in the store had special packaging pointing out their recession pricing – about 10% off.

Now we could all use a break in these tough economic times – but I’m willing to guess that if you do your groceries at The Five Robbers, then 10% isn’t going to make or break you. So what gives? I think that cheap just may be the new green. I’ll bet a year ago that same store would have been touting eco-friendly products or packaging. I’m afraid that recession pricing at the toniest grocer in the city may be just another marketing gimmick. I think it’s designed to make the customer feel virtuous and responsible, much like a lot of the green marketing did. Does it work? I’m not sure. Ten percent off the world’s best chocolate cake is certainly a nice pick-me-up, but I’m hard pressed to think that sales are way up at that shop as a result. If cheap is the new green, what will be the new cheap? I wish I could predict it – but it’s no piece of cake.

Admiral Road has been making personalized blankets since 2002.

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