Consumer researchers point to Borders as an example of the kind of value-added inducements marketers need if they are going to pull in hesitant consumers this year.
"Consumers-just as employers-have become bottom-line oriented," said Brad Fay, VP at Roper Starch Worldwide, Mam-aroneck, New York. As employers cut jobs, consumer expectations become even stronger because Americans are less secure than before, he said.
Researchers like Mr. Fay attribute consumer insecurity to factors such as corporate downsizing, lower wages and news headlines like AT&T's plan to cut 40,000 jobs.
With consumer confidence at a low ebb, shoppers are stretching their dollars and demand more services for their money.
"Consumers assume quality is pretty good constantly, and now they are finding that they can get the same low price on almost everything," said Mr. Fay. "So in that environment, to be successful, you need to offer something unique-an unusual service or style or innovation."
That's how Borders Group managed to increase its December sales 14.8% to $512.0 million from the year before, propelled largely by the 116-unit Borders superstore chain, which contains amenities like coffee bars and live music. Sales for those stores jumped 54.8% to $123.3 million for the month ended Dec. 30.
DAYTON HUDSON ADDS VALUE
Borders isn't alone in trying to add value in the retailing arena for the cautious '90s.
Dayton Hudson Corp.'s Hudson Department Stores have developed a program where it will send style consultants to local businesses with advice for casual corporate attire.
Pet superstores like Petsmart now offer related services such as obedience classes, on-site veterinarians and pet grooming. Kids' retailers such as Tandy Corp.'s Incredible Universe electronic stores provide an interactive environment for children including a multimedia room and play area.
PROTECTING THEIR OWN
But adding value isn't necessarily enough to attract consumers hunkering down in an uncertain environment. With insecurity sparking a need for people to become more self-reliant, researchers believe marketers need to appeal to this sense of self-protection.
Judith Langer, founder of Langer Associates, calls the 1990s the "Mine" generation, noting that Americans now want to protect and defend what they have-jobs, family and community.