Feature Article - September/October 2013

Merchandise Trends

Consumers Choosing What They Want, Not What They Need

By Deborah L. Vence

Back in the spring, the Incentive Research Foundation released a survey that showed the economy was having a positive impact on merchandise programs. In fact, 55 percent of respondents said the economy was having either a moderate or significantly positive impact on their ability to plan and implement merchandise incentive programs, while only 13 percent said the economy was having a negative impact.

The truth is that the "economy is showing signs of improvement and, as such, people seem to be selecting incentive products that they wish for, as opposed to products that they need," said Adrienne Forrest, vice president of corporate sales, Bulova Corp.

Richard Low, national accounts manager, Hamilton Beach/Proctor Silex Inc., agreed.

"Consumer confidence in the economy has improved, which is reflected in brand choice," Low said. "Premium brands are seeing significant gains in the housewares industry. Many program participants are redeeming for products that improve their lifestyle, rather than opting for everyday necessities."

In this issue of Premium Incentive Products magazine, we discussed with industry experts the latest in merchandise trends, what's popular right now and what the expectations are for the industry.

A Boost in Confidence

Over the past four pulse surveys conducted by the IRF, there's been proof of an upward trend in planners reporting that the economy is having a positive impact on their incentive programs.

As the economy moves toward a recovery, program participants now are using their points to redeem for products that they truly want.

"This is definitely good news," said Melissa Van Dyke, president of the IRF.

And, as the economy moves toward a recovery, program participants now are using their points to redeem for products that they truly want, as opposed to products they need.

For example, "This is leading to a surge in redemptions for fashion and accessories because participants want to have a handbag with a matching wallet or own the latest Michael Kors tote in multiple colors," said Jessica Brown, senior director of luxury goods, Rymax Marketing Services Inc.

Low noted that merchandise continues to have strong redemption in programs that aim to make a long-term impact. More and more studies, he said, are showing that merchandise is stronger than cash when it comes to motivating most people.

"We will see a broader array of branded choices at lower redemption levels as programs are aimed at a wider audience," he said.