Predictions 2012 From Sean Oakley Stahls’ Canada

Thank you to Sean Oakley of Stahls’ Canada for this contribution to my series on Predictions 2012 for the custom apparel industry. I always appreciate your insight and international point of view.

Sean Oakley, General Manager of Stahls' Canada, shares his views on what business owners should be mindful of in 2012.

Stahls’ Canada Customer Trends and Business Outlook for 2012 by Sean Oakley:

We recently completed our largest tradeshow, the Toronto Imprint Show and it really set the stage and revealed what is to come for 2012 and onwards.

Big Picture Economic & Business Overview 2012:

2012 will be a monumental year filled with conspiracy theory predictions, real fears and concerns about economy, job security, and business survival.  There is a global awakening to a new consciousness and way of looking at the world, people, economy and business. Over the past 10 years our “Westernized Ego” has prevented North Americans from seeing the true evolution of their business and more importantly, their customers.  This has allowed the rest of the world– China, India, and other well populated, “hungry for business” countries– to take a very healthy part of the consumer demand away from traditionally domineering economies such as the US and Europe, by offering same or better value at a better price.

Without rambling too much about economic predictions, the value of the dollar, and what the US and Europe are going to do in 2012, I will say the following: The way businesses and their customers have operated WILL change.  Companies, Government, and People will evolve in 2012 whether they want to or not.  Materialism, Debt, Spending more than you have, being unhappy with what you have, are all ingredients to the recipe of economic chaos and will lead to business survival uncertainty. What can you do about it?

Know your customer!

Think like a customer as you package your products and services.  Put yourself in their shoes.  Ask yourself why they should choose you, your company, and your goods and services.  Think globally when asking this.  If you don’t know how to think Global, just Google your products and services and see what the rest of the world is doing.  See how they compare.  Your competitors are no longer “On-Shore,” they are all around the world.

Study your customers, their demographics– how are they trending, how do they think, what portion of them are Baby Boomers, young up and comers, and middle aged consumers?  You may have a good business with great products and services but if the majority of your customer base is the Baby Boomers, keep in mind they are at the point of retirement, have an uncertain pension plan they are not sure how is going to support them when they stop working.  How are you going to appeal to them? How are they going to afford what you offer? Are they going to be attracted to you and your business?  Ask these same questions for all your demographics and strategize your story around them.  Too many times businesses create great ideas and just think they will be successful without actually studying the demographic trends of their customers.

Understand the Dynamics of the Economy in Which You Operate

Look at the U.S. government.  They keep interest rates low, hoping that this will stimulate the economy. But what about the fact that about 60% of the current work force (Baby Boomers) in the U.S. is about to retire and is very concerned about their pensions?  They will never spend money or go in debt when they have this very serious concern in front of them.  Once again… Think Like Your Customer!



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