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Liebmann's Leap of Faith

If Wendy Liebmann had it her way, attendees of the WWD Beauty CEO Summit would have joined her onstage, held hands and leapt into the abyss.

Wendy Liebmann WSL Strategic Retail

Wendy Liebmann, WSL Strategic Retail

Photo By WWD STAFF

If Wendy Liebmann had it her way, attendees of the WWD Beauty CEO Summit would have joined her onstage, held hands and leapt into the abyss.

"I do call on you to leap because if you don't, we may find ourselves in an even more challenging position two years from now," declared Liebmann, founder and chief executive officer of WSL Strategic Retail.

After all, dramatic actions are de rigueur in what she dubbed "the whole new shock-rocking world of beauty retailing." She defined the concept with a number of key observations of the consumer mind-set: Anarchy reigns; prudence remains; new values emerge; trust issues intensify, and a new shoppers' bill of rights is formed.

These days, the shopper has weighty issues on her mind, including product recalls in toys and food, sky-high gas prices and the subprime mortgage crisis.

"This is the world in which the American shopper lives and breathes...and consumers are trying to understand and live in that world of chaos. They are navigating this current state by attempting to control the little things," said Liebmann.

"But here's the thing: the little things, guess what? That's us. They are trying to control the little things and that's the business we're in."

That's where shoppers' prudent mind-set fits in.

Liebmann said, "She's not waiting for some official in Washington to say big recession, little recession. She's already in it, and she's trying to find ways to make sense of it all and control the little things."

Liebmann underscored the point by sharing some statistics from WSL's 2008 "How America Shops" study. According to the study, 64 percent of shoppers polled said it's important to get the lowest price on items; 58 percent said they'd go a little farther to shop where they can save money, and four out of 10 said they are more likely to choose a lower-priced brand than their usual brand.
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