Welcome To The “We’re Stuck” Economy

Andrea-SimonThere is a pattern I am beginning to see as I work with clients or conduct workshops across the country. I invite you to share your thoughts on how you see companies responding to what I am calling the “We’re Stuck” economy, or the “aha” moment when a company realizes that “Uh-oh, the old economy is not coming back and I don’t know what to do.”

How does this appear? Here are several ways:

  • The Home Building Market is coming back, but oh so slowly. Those once very successful suppliers of all sorts of goods and services for home building are struggling. For example, one plumbing supply company has finally realized that without new home construction, the demand for its products and services is in decline. But it’s a supply company. What role can it play in sustaining growth in a shrinking market with far too many distributors and too little demand? Should they focus on the sustainability market? The water industry? They never needed a growth strategy, now cannot move without one, and better come up with one fast.
  • Manufacturers are Marketing Direct to End-users. Regardless of product line, manufacturers are beginning to market directly to the end-user, be it the plumber or the actual home owner, for repairs or replacements or maybe a new room for young adult children in their parents’ home. The direct-to-consumer is becoming even easier with Amazon stores and online sales and it is happening in virtually every industry. Amazon wants to dominate the B2B world, which begs the question, What will happen to the roofing supplier, the lumber yards and the building supply distributors?
  • What Happened to our Market? So many different types of businesses are asking this same question. Whether they are in the kitchen cabinet business or home interior design, the businesses that specialized in pools or even steel are all trying to figure out what to do if the old doesn’t come back. For example, very successful landscapers I met recently are trying to find new roles for their skills. There are too many landscapers just like them trying to find residential developments that need new landscaping, of which there are fewer and often none. Same story for existing landscaping that might generate ongoing monthly revenues for upkeep. In search of a new market, one landscaper built a healing garden for a nursing facility. Are there ways to create more of these, leading to a model for healthcare facilities or hotels? Another solution might lie in interior design centers. Each requires a strong marketing process to create a new market space. So the challenge is two-fold: think of a new market and create it.
  • Men Have Lost their Jobs and are Home all Day. In many cases when men have lost their jobs, they are now spending more if not all their time at home, doing their own landscaping (instead of landscapers), repairs (cutting out the plumber or carpenter), housework, and caring for the kids. What will the “experts” do now? Who can use them?
  • Offices in Office Buildings are Going Empty. If you are in the office furniture business, or office cleaning business, what are you going to do now that so many people work at home? Find other spaces to clean? Maybe reinvent the way you sell your furnishings so home office users can self-serve? Or sell them new or refurbished furnishings to fit their homes? What about recycling unneeded items for other uses, or selling them to emerging markets?