Turning On & Tuning In? What Consumers are REALLY Doing
In my seemingly endless quest to keep count of how many retail chains are closing stores – this just in: Wet Seal shutting down another 154, Ralph Lauren another 50 – I’m equally endlessly trying to figure out what shoppers are doing instead of shopping. Yes, yes. Of course, they are buying on line. But what is taking the place of shopping: Those once charming moments of escape to make-believe spent perusing goods with friends and stopping for a frozen yogurt. What takes the place of that aimless wandering for which malls and main streets seemed once to be preternaturally designed?
Sure they go to movies and restaurants and museums and music festivals. But that’s not the same as touching the goods and debating the relative merits of this blouse versus that one, these shoes or those, that jacket or OMG THIS ONE! Or considering this sofa and that bookcase. Those dishes, but not that glassware. Or the self-curated specificity of artisanal cheeses and fresh baked breads selected with diligence for friends on their way over for cocktails before a night out.
Of course, we work from home, we buy at home, we order in, we binge watch there. Money is being earned and spent. But where’s the thrill? The elation? The fantasy of the dressing room. The imaginings of the person I would be if I really wore this? The becoming my new self-moments with a more grown up look? The first apartment thrill of creating a home.
I think I’ve figured it out: People in North America spent – wait for it -- $53 billion (as in billion) last year on marijuana. More, according to Business Insider, than at McDonald’s and Starbucks combined. Some of these sales are, of course, legal, perhaps nearly $7 billion of it. Most, not so much. But more than reefer madness, there are “weed-laced topicals, sprays and edibles,” reports the publication. The point the article makes is here’s a market, marketers, that doesn’t require radical consumer and trade ‘push’ to build demand. Nope, dope desire is already there. And building. Lurching one state at a time out of the closet and into legality.
So, question for the week. If shoppers are having their cannabis and eating it too at home alone, how many changes of wardrobe do they need? How much social interaction, beyond a shared desire for munchies, is required. How best to reach them through the haze of their own fantasies with the promise of yours? When medical marijuana is simply defined, prescribed and purveyed as the zero-calorie, no-carb treatment of choice to relieve the confusions, polarizations, stains and strains of 21st century American life, what else will consumers care to consume? Or is it not just retailing that’s in a swirl, but the heretofore unstated covenant governing the getting/spending role and responsibility of consumers in a consumer society. So marketers: As Timothy Leary also said, “You can’t use butterfly language to talk to a caterpillar.”