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February 9, 2011 12:05 PM

Retail

My Grandmother's Scrambled Eggs and the Consumer

I included a bit of Clark-family lore--and breakfast fare--in an article Tuesday that plumbed the affects of rampant joblessness....

I included a bit of Clark-family lore--and breakfast fare--in an article Tuesday that plumbed the affects of rampant joblessness. The story ended with this: "The Great Depression left a generation that learned to stash money under their mattresses and mix stale bread in with their scrambled eggs. What marks the current downturn will leave remains an open question, perhaps the key question for the next generation of retail executives."

Those are my grandmother's eggs. I grew up eating them, though we used toast and not stale bread.

My dad told me last night he hadn't known his mother's scrambled eggs were a leftover from the Depression. That was a tidbit passed down to my mom and then to me.

My dad thought they were, well, just eggs with bread.

And that's the point.

The down-in-the-dumps economy, even now that it's on the upswing, is leaving indelible marks on all of us. Worries over jobs and mortgages, pressures to cut back on extras and pad savings accounts are changing people. Some of those changes will stick and be passed down. If my dad is any guide, we won't even know it.

But retailers will see the changes at their cash registers. They'll see them in how well their marketing works, in whether certain brands still resonate.

It's impossible to guess exactly how we as consumers are evolving. The best retailers can do is stay close and try to stay flexible enough to change as well.
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