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Election fever

08.11.2016

As the race to the White House draws to a close it marks what has undoubtedly been one of the most contentious and polarised US presidential elections in recent memory. And with polls suggesting it could be a close run thing, it is set to be an interesting end to the year.

Together with the UK’s EU referendum, elections have dominated the headlines to date, and for businesses such as ours it has been fascinating to see the extent to which these macro events can influence the short term consumer psyche.

The EU referendum definitely proved a distraction creating a “wait-and-see approach” during which we saw spending curtailed on big ticket items. But what has been very encouraging to see is the speed at which British consumers have headed back into the shops. And with the low interest rate environment and high levels of employment it is seems apparent that Brits are set on shopping today rather than saving in the face of uncertainty.

Given that these overarching political events clearly can divert the shopper, it is crucial that retailers are using all of the channels and initiatives to touch base with their target audiences. Particularly in light of the bigger structural changes, such as multichannel strategies that continue to shape retail sector. Plus it is clear that shoppers are becoming more discerning in their purchases, now seemingly preferring technology to fashion, posing a real challenge for many a global retailer.

A such, we’ve seen some brands using the elections as the means to connect with their consumers and staff. Careful not to wade into political debate, brands are recognising the importance of exercising your right to vote, with US retailer American Eagle debuting a range from the not-for-profit organisation, Rock the Vote, to promote a new line of products that encourages its young consumer base to vote. The brand also provides the opportunity to register to vote in store through a custom online voter registration tool. Politically neutral, American Eagle is capitalising on an opportunity to align itself with the sense of civic duty present in its core millennial demographic.

Also, outdoor retailer, Patagonia has taken the decision is close its 29 U.S. stores and its corporate office, customer service and distribution centre on election day to drive staff traffic to voting booths.

Choosing to support the voting process is a shrewd move by retailers and may well smooth the return of its shoppers. So whatever the outcome in the US, as we head into the retail calendars’ busiest period, I suspect Black Friday and holiday gifting will jolt Americans into opening their wallets again during the peak buying season. Perhaps how quickly the UK consumer returned to the shops can also provide reassurance.