I hope that everyone had a fantastic holiday season and that the early days of 2011 are treating you well. We had the pleasure of spending some time in Mesa, Arizona over Christmas and New Year’s and I can say that the sunshine was a welcomed change from the winter months in Victoria, BC. We’ve been enjoying our time here so much that we extended our trip by one week!
It’s not all sun and golf though. We’re back at work today and have limited our time by the pool to non-business hours.
On the business side of things, I think that it’s worth commenting on some noted differences in the marketplace in the Phoenix area versus that of Victoria, BC. First off, it’s very clear that the economic downturn has hit hard down here. It’s surprising to see the number of vacant urban lots that were obviously prepped for development when times were booming but never got started once the recession hit. We’ve also seen a number of ghost-like subdivisions where roads, sidewalks, utilities and the likes are all in place but without a house to be seen.
We did our share of Christmas shopping in the Phoenix area only a few days before Christmas. It was amazing how quiet the stores were in comparison to the insanity of shopping that close to Christmas in greater Victoria. Perhaps it’s the saturation of massive retail stores down here such as Macy’s, JC Penny, Target, Walmart, Kohls, etc. which seem to be on every freeway exit. Are there enough people to fill these stores? Was I lucky enough to hit the less populated areas? Who knows, but it certainly wasn’t overwhelming to shop 1 day before Christmas.
One of the biggest things that I noticed almost everywhere we went was the fantastic, friendly and welcoming level of customer service. Whether it was filling up with gas, grabbing wine at the local corner store, dining out or wandering through one of the many malls, it was very eye-opening to see so many pleasant and helpful people. Is this a byproduct of the recession? Are businesses dying for your business that they are finally realizing that they need to treat consumers like people and not numbers? Or is it that the 300+ days/year of sun in Phoenix just makes people happier? I can’t answer this but I can say that some businesses in Victoria could learn a thing or two.
From an advertising perspective, I think this emphasizes to me that the focus really needs to be on treating the consumer like a valued part of your business. Regular, honest communication rather than flashy sales pitches are what’s going to work in this economic downturn.