Monday Musings On The Future

Trendspotting: The future's not what it used to be. After a weekend following the news, various items popped up that tweaked my interest because they point to a different future than the one we expected a year ago.

Trendspotting: The future’s not what it used to be.

After a weekend following the news, various items popped up that tweaked my interest because they point to a different future than the one we expected a year ago.

1. The Credit Union Central weekly briefing puts some numbers on everything we felt earlier this summer regarding the economy. Although sales continued to rebound in June from the low of last December, they still weren’t pretty. Overall, sales increased by 0.7 percent month over month, but were still down 9.2 percent from June 2008.

Seems to me this recovery is pretty anemic and consumers are still being very careful. Look for them to do so for some time.

2. A couple of large GM dealerships on the Island are being gassed, and two others are consolidating. As it chops its business model,GM is closing 14 manufacturing plants in North America, is dumping brands like Saab, Hummer, Saturn, Opel and Pontiac, and more than halving its workforce. It is also cutting its North American dealer network by 42 percent.

It’s not nice for the dealers, but it is interesting to see how a lumbering behemoth like GM is attempting radical change in order to survive.  If it works, we may just be witnessing the end of the “bigger is always better” era. This has significant implications for the North American business culture in general.

3. A last minute attempt by CHECK-TV employees to buy their television station from owner Canwest Global Communications Corp. failed, and the station is closing this week. The employees raised some $2.5 million to cover initial operating expenses but had no advertising or programming in place, and so would have had to incur very large costs to get up and running.

Two and a half million is chump change in the media world, and I think it’s a good indicator of people’s changing media tastes that the entire island community couldn’t come up with more than that save an institution.

It’s also another example of the bigger is better thinking changing.  You need to be very big to run a television station (or a traditional newspaper) and presumably Canwest wants to use this recession to get back into fighting shape so it can better navigate the future of media, which seems to be changing weekly.

4. Electronics retailers report that this year, parents are buying the latest computers and other electronics for their school-returning offspring. Then they’re taking the kid’s old stuff and using it for themselves.

This “hand-me-up” trend can occur because electronics are no longer advancing so rapidly that two years was their shelf life. Most parents are frugally thinking, hey, I’ll just use my kid’s old computer because it’s better than mine and will satisfy my needs.
 
This tells me that the electronics industry is no longer in the “everybody has to change everything this year” mode. It’s become completely commoditized and in future, will be stratified by need, not by marketing.

BTW, this was written on a six year old computer that is perfectly adequate for most day to day business tasks.

But I am changing it. My 88-year-old mother gave me hers.