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Friday, April 30, 2010

The recovery continues, officially (but it varies by geography, category, and company)

This morning, breaking news from the Washington Post cited a 3.2% expansion in the Gross Domestic Product of the United States, the third consecutive quarter of positive news on the topic. Depending on your journalistic preference, a similar story was posted by the New York Times.

You already know how I love to perpetuate any positive news I can get my hands on, but I am also a realist. So let me season our enthusiasm with a few cautionary thoughts (and maybe some words of encouragement).

Implications: In its most simplistic form, two consecutive quarters of growth in the GDP should represent an end to the recession and the beginning of a recovery. (More complex measures, though, include growth in employment, housing and various categories of consumer spending.)

Earlier this month, too, The Economist published an article suggesting that the recovery actually commenced in June, 2009. (I loved seeing that, because I had offered a similar speculation… but way back in June, 2009. See “Dateline 2010: The recession is over,” 6/20/09.)

But with many miles traveled this year to conduct Elm Street Economics workshops and other consumer trend programs, I know that the recovery will not be uniform in all parts of the country. Having worked in South Florida this past week, I know that Miami and Ft. Lauderdale still have a long way to go; much of their economy is driven by tourism, which was hit particularly hard by the great recession. Further, the real estate meltdown was particularly severe there.

I started April started with a trip to Houston, where the overall tone was much more optimistic. With a diverse economy supported by the energy sector (exploration, recovery, refining and shipping), several local business folks I spoke with there seemed to think that their Texas city was about a year late getting into the recession—and about a year early stepping out of it—compared to the rest of the country.

What’s important to focus on is this: In spite of their local economies, there are still companies doing VERY well in South Florida, and there are companies still having a VERY tough time in Houston.

While the Great Recession impacted virtually all of us, it remains unlikely that a “Great Recovery” will simultaneously impact all companies, all categories, or all regions at the same time or in the same manner. So rather than focusing on the recession or the recovery, it remains important to focus on your response to the needs of your customers, and the benefits they hope to enjoy through the purchase of your product or service.

Mike Anderson

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