March 16, 2022
Fifteen percent of Americans are able to determine the winners and losers of 2022 in retail and politics, according to new search discussed yesterday on the National Retail Federation (NRF) presentation “State of Retail and the Consumer”.
The study by SKDK, a political affairs and consultancy firm, identified a group of voters it called “ambitious independents” who are diverse and politically moderate. The group is made up mostly of people who are unaffiliated with any party as well as some “soft” Democrats and Republicans.
The group is 51% white, 50 or younger (43% are 35 or younger) and they are “exploratory” in their shopping, according to SKDK partner Bill Knapp. These consumers belong to both middle and upper middle class and are located in urban and peri-urban areas.
“They’re looking for new things,” Mr. Knapp said. “They like variety. They buy in every way imaginable, of course online, but they also go to big box stores, local stores, community places. They shop online.
Ultimately, he said, ambitious freelancers don’t want shopping to turn into a chore. They want the experience to “be fun”.
Authenticity is key for this cohort of consumers. He cautioned retailers against taking positions that are not based on an organization’s core values. “It’s the hypocrisy that’s the kryptonite,” Mr. Knapp said.
“You have to be authentic in your positioning and you have to be real and live up to that yourself,” he said. “If you want to argue that the world should be X, you better run your store that way. You know, if you’re in favor of a higher minimum wage, you better make sure you do it. Otherwise, they’re going to see it as just a position to curry favor with and not true or authentic to what you believe or what you think, and that’s where you run into a big problem.
Mr Knapp said the noise is loudest at the extremes of politics today, both left and right. Ambitious independents, however, seek calm and clear thinking, focused on progress. They see the policy as too controversial, so before retailers take the plunge, they need to understand this to avoid getting themselves “a lot of trouble”.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Will catering to “ambitious independents” prove successful for retailers if they also try to appeal to consumers with less moderate political leanings? What do you think are the keys to success for retailers operating in politically contentious times?
“Retailers should focus on buying habits and product preferences, not political affiliation, in their marketing and merchandising.”