Is it the media’s fault?

This week’s news demonstrates the power of the press. The final numbers came out on the retail sales for 2008 and the headlines included words such as: “Plummet”, “Nose Dive”, “Dismal” among others.

The news: retail sales fell by 2.2%. Granted this was the biggest decline since the 1970’s and some chains and individual stores fell by much larger percentages.

But does the word “plummet” really apply to a drop of such a small percentage? Please do not think I am discounting the extreme importance of retail and its importance in the health of our economy. But why couldn’t the headline say “Shoppers took new approach to gift buying this year” or “Donations to charities were among the most welcome gifts this year”? or maybe even “Despite dire predictions the retail drop in sales was less than some might have expected”?

And what about Amazon and its report that their traffic, shipping volume and sales beat all previous years? Aren’t there other sectors that saw increases during the holidays?

Based on the early predictions of low retail sales, I was not surprised to see the ads with big sales, but I was surprised at the lack of anything different – still hard to find a sales person in most large department stores, and when a sales person was found it was rare to find one with much information or enthusiasm. If retailers knew the holiday was going to be a struggle wasn’t it also a great time to build relationships with customers to assure they would frequent their store all year long? I must inject here that Nordstrom was the exception to both of these each time I went into the local store.

A new year usually brings great optimism and this year with a new administration coming into power in Washington we have two reasons to be hopeful for 2009 – but our new President and his team could really use a little help from the media and others who focus on the negative.

“Free Fall” just doesn’t seem to fit a drop of 2.2% … now if the data said there was a 22% decline in sales it just might fit the message. As for me, I am optimistic and believe that soon the news tide will turn to more balanced reporting, but it will be because the consumer has had enough of the negative.

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