Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Recession, or Minor Setback?

Aside from the pending election, the biggest buzz nowadays is about the existence (or perceived existence) of a "recession". But are things really that bad north of the border here in Canada? Many would beg to differ.

An interesting article in the National Post written by Jacqueline Thorpe and Paul Vieira quotes the governor of the Bank of Canada, Mark Carney, as stating that the "sky is not falling" in this country, adding that while we should prepare for "sluggish growth", we do not "have the imbalances in our economy that other economies have going into this time of difficulty."

This shouldn't be taken to mean that Canadians will skate through this time completely unaffected. Companies will need to scale back certain niceties, and make minor adjustments until the situation blows over (and let's face it: it will blow over eventually). But the important thing is to remain as close as possible to "business as usual". After all, when things get back to what many would call "normal", it'll be those who kept their head high through the tough times that benefit the most.

What's more, many are confident that the tech sector specifically is somewhat "recession-proof", if not at least recession-"resistant". TWICE Magazine claims that U.S. TV manufacturers are "cautiously optimistic" that sales will continue to be strong through the upcoming holiday season, despite what's going on in the economy.

The reason is obvious: if you cut costs by not eating out, going shopping, or heading out to see a movie, what do you do? Stay at home! You can take the kids out for dinner and a movie every Friday night, or invest in a home theatre system (and some Ben & Jerrys!) at home that can be enjoyed for years and years to come instead of just one night. As research firm Futuresource Consulting puts it, these items offer much better "value-for-money", along with "tangible benefits." On the TV end, the only cut-back Futuresource has observed is in size: it seems that rather than fork over the extra dough for 50"+-sized panels, customers appear to be, more often than before, opting for 32" and 42" sets instead.

The optimism doesn't just relate to the TV industry, though. It also goes for computer-related products, and even video games. Sure, it isn't healthy to stay seated on the couch every weekend just because you don't want to go out and spend money. But why not watch TV while on the treadmill? Or play some Nintendo Wii games with the family instead of heading out to Chuck E Cheese? Bottom line: there is a way that consumers can reduce frivolous spending that can also benefit the CE industry.

Nevertheless, retailers, manufacturers, and distributors are, and will continue to do what they have to do in order to be cautious and remain profitable. I've seen several e-mail notifications that advise of price increases due to the "falling Canadian currency", or that regretfully announce the cessation of certain incentive programs for the time being. C'est la vie, as they say. But the most important thing to consider is to keep your business strong by whatever means necessary. Otherwise, you'll be eating everyone else's dust once things pick up again.

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