As soon as we got to London on Monday, I walked to a local market to stock our flat for the week. We do Airbnbs over hotels on family trips, so we can cook an occasional meal, do laundry (and pack lightly), and generally have more space without draining our kids’ 529s. I’m a big fan.
Anyway, the market.
After waiting in line and bagging my booty of food, wine, and other essentials, the checkout clerk informed me that they didn’t accept credit cards – only cash or debit – and I hadn’t traded my euros for pounds yet. The nearest ATM was blocks away.
As I stood there flailing, a thirty-something British guy behind me said pleasantly, “I’ll get it, mate. I’m heading home, but I work next door and you can pay me back tomorrow.”
Keep in mind, I’m not talking about a pack of gum and Gatorade here. My cart was overflowing and if you think inflation is bad in the U.S…
I protested, in vain.
“My name is Eddie. Text me your number,” he said, “and I’ll tell you where to find me.”
Except I didn’t have my phone. The battery died on our flight from Portugal and I left it at the flat to charge. “Yeah, right,” he had to be thinking.
Eddie was unfazed. So, I gave him my number – which I could have easily faked – and slithered out the door with a dozen bags hanging from my arms. Can you believe this inconsiderate prick didn’t offer to help carry them to our flat? Just kidding.
It was a remarkable act of kindness. He could’ve simply ignored the situation, stared at his phone while I walked away without my groceries, and gone on with his day. But, no.
Of course I paid him back, first thing the next morning, with enough interest to buy him a few pints for his troubles.
Shit feels bleak right now. The economic climate is a train wreck, adding ever more expensive fuel to our political divides, and further exacerbating our fragile post-pandemic well-being. It’s safer to presume the worst of things (and people), than to expose ourselves to more disappointment.
My British Samaritan reminds us that there’s still more good than bad in the world. Bad just drives headlines.
So, be nice. Help strangers. Assume positive intent. Pay it forward.
All of it.
You might get hurt, but more often you won’t.
Kindness and empathy will get us through anything.
Here’s what we’re seeing:
Turning to all the ugliness, Americans are quickly eating away at all that COVID-enabled household savings. This was only a matter of time (as I first told you last fall), but as people embarked on their rescheduled vacations, paying for parking and dry cleaning again, burning off those stimulus payments, and taking inflation on the chin, our two-year pandemic nest eggs are finally cracking. No surprise, it’s hitting the lower end of the income spectrum far worse.
In better news – if you’re a retailer, I guess – people are planning to spend more on back-to-school this year. Few things we study are trickier than back-to-school. Retailers want to know what’s happening, months in advance, by early spring even. By May, many of their biggest decisions have been made, while in today’s climate, most people have no clue what their bank accounts will look like come July or August. No matter what, people are planning (bracing) to spend more on B2S this year than they did last year and way more than lockdown year. Of course they will, because everything will be more expensive and most school supplies are necessities. Guess how the numbers look by income. Sigh.
Lockdown shuffled the work apparel category, maybe forever. Athleisure was already trending before COVID hit, but as people sat at home all day for months, comfort further leapfrogged style. And even as people have returned to physical work, casual wear reigns supreme over business attire. Notably, people who are still working remotely are more interested than in-person workers in buying business casual clothes. To be fair, they’re more likely to be buying clothes across every category – probably because most people who are still working remotely have a pretty cushy job and bigger paychecks. As you can see below, people shop at a lot of different places for work clothes. I’d show you all the interesting cross-tabs by job type, but our sales team would yell at me for that.
One spending category that seems to be stable across the income spectrum this summer is swimwear, primarily because younger people are the most likely buyers. A quarter of U.S. adults who wear swimwear have either purchased a bathing suit already this year or plan to. The numbers are uncannily consistent across income groups, with wealthier and older consumers balanced by younger ones. Of course, what people are willing to pay for swimwear varies and income is a factor there. I still can’t believe anyone drops over $150 on a bathing suit, no matter how much money they have.
Consumers are wising up to “shrinkflation” and they’re pissed about it. Over 80% of Americans say they’ve noticed brands peddling smaller product packaging at full-sized prices recently. About half say they would switch brands or not purchase a product at all if they encounter this trick at the grocery store. It’s particularly problematic for larger families, who can’t get by with smaller portions. Be careful, dearest CPG marketers. Brand loyalty in your category is already on shaky ground.
A couple more studies from the CivicScientists this week:
- Apple previewed a Buy Now, Pay Later service and here’s what we learned;
- Here are some of the big differences between morning people and night owls.
These were the most popular questions this week:
- Which type of movie do you most like to watch?
- How important is it for you to feel like your life serves a higher purpose?
- Do you prewash your dishes before putting them in a dishwasher?
- How comfortable are you with talking to a stranger at an event?
- Would you say you identify as ‘socially conscious’?
Answer Key (I swear I didn’t read these before writing the prologue): Happy ones; Extremely; Yes; Very; Also very.
Hoping you’re well.
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