The month of December is speeding past as financial journalists juggle seasonal narratives from holiday shopping to the “fiscal cliff.” To liven up the mix, here are a few Quicktips on topics that risk getting lost in the Santa shuffle yet are worthy topics for business and economy features:
Doomsday. According to some believers, shopping procrastinators need not worry because their delinquent present-picking won’t be discovered Dec. 25, because the world is slated to end on Dec. 21. That’s the date of a doomsday prediction so widely bandied about that NASA felt the need to step in and dispel the rumor with this handy fact-sheet that explains the Earth really will not collide with a mysterious planet in two weeks.
However, that has not stopped some people from turning a dime on the concept. National Geographic Channel got a “Doomsday Prepper” reality show out of it, and companies selling products from Ballisti-Crete concrete that can stand up to deadly weapons (for your survival bunker) to “emergency survival seed” are adding that moniker to their web pages to snare Internet searchers. And check out this Dec. 4 press release from BeBevCo, a maker of “relaxation” beverages, which among other things touts itself as a rememdy for people suffering Doomdsday stress. Can you find any other companies cashing in Doomsday? How are outdoors and sporting goods stores faring? Also, check out the American Preppers Network of consumers mobilized for survival for other ideas, and Google a geographic term + “preppers” to find groups in your area.
For a longer view, you might want to use Doomsday as a peg for a broader look at fear-based marketing, where products and services are sold by illustrating the negative consequences of passing them up, whether it’s life insurance “for those final expenses” or oral-care products because “otherwise you are yellowing.” Upcoming post-holiday diet season doubtless will provide plenty of fodder for this angle, as well.
Home-cooked meals. The new Zagat 2013 Americas Top Restaurants Survey is out; you might want to check the list to see if any of your local eateries made the cut. Also of interest in the report is the growth in meals cooked at home; not a good sign for restauranteurs. Ask local managers what they are doing to fight this trend — more upscale take-out? Value-driven promotions?
Also out this week is the National Restaurant Association’s trends forecast for 2013; the menu outlook predicts more locally sourced meats and seafood, healthier kids’ meals and gluten-free dining, among others. Bartenders surveyed said top drinks trends will include savory (rather than sweet) cocktails, beer-based cocktails and beer sommeliers and all sorts of local or artisanal offerings. The report also includes a note about what chefs are doing to combat higher ingredients costs; this would make for an interesting feature in itself. Tablet computers are also of growing importance in the restaurant biz.
Baby royale. Just as the 2011 royal wedding sent the American bridal industry into a tizzy, I expect that baby gear designers, makers and retailers are already planning how to wring the most out of the expected child of Kate Middleton and Prince William. It is not too soon to start sourcing a baby-goods story, whether a feature on “baby products fit for a princess” that are available locally, to a personal finance feature on the cost of infant goods & care, to a fresh look at the small businesses in your area that cater to infants and their parents. That can include consultants, concierges and professional nannies as well as retailers. If you have any consumer goods makers near you, such as Johnson & Johnson or Procter & Gamble, ask about the latest in baby-goods trends. I could see this as a technology story, a business of health care story (hospital spending on maternity suites, for example), a marketing and advertising piece or even a travel & transportation update: How are hotels, resorts, car makers, airlines and other modes of transport catering (or not) to babies? Check out Baby Shop Magazine for some eye-opening industry trends as well as the website of the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association.