Urbandictionary.com defines a recessionista as:
“A person who is able to remain stylish during times of economic hardship. A recessionista can shop on a limited budget and still manage to be up to date on the most current fashions. A recessionista does not let a bad economy, inflation, or a strong recession damage his or her wardrobe and opts to search for sales and shop at thrifty discount stores instead.
She’s a recessionista, that New York marvel who’s a magnet for a good deal.
And in this economy, she’s got a lot to teach us.”
I was introduced to the term recessionista by Marty Gillis, a New York Metro McDonald’s franchise owner. While on a conference call recently, she introduced the term into a conversation about African-American women and how they are dealing (and ultimately managing) with the challenges of the current economic downturn.
It got the wheels in my head spinning and prompted me to explore the term recessionista and probe a little deeper.
I started with the premise that, while the term has applicability regardless of sex, gender or race, in my mind’s eye, Miss Recessionista is a Black female…strong, self-assured and savvy. No stranger to making more out of less.
With a largely disproportionate number of African-American households headed by females, she is, in many cases, the sole decision maker for all household purchases.
I fully acknowledge the reality that even when there is a male present in the household, she still retains the final say with regard to purchases, big or small. This, too, is the rule of thumb in non-African-American households.
The fact is simple, she rules the roost.
Miss Recessionista is not ashamed or embarrassed by the name. She wears it loud and proud. It is an indication that she possesses skills and both the financial acumen and wherewithall of a seasoned CFO. While she enjoys the shopping process, common sense and fiscal responsibility are foundational to her approach.
After identifying “who” Miss Recessionista is, I began discussing her with a handful of women. While they are all from different walks of life, for all intents and purposes, in addition to being Black, they share the attributes that make them recessionitas.
“I used to shop for fun. Today I shop with a purpose.”
With that thought, one of the first things I was intrigued by is a discernable erosion in brand loyalty. For years, African-Americans have been extremely brand conscious and loyal consumers. While brands for many represent quality and equality, Miss Recessionista has adopted (and applied) a “new and improved” filter to the shopping process.
“If I can find a product that does the same thing for less, that’s the one I’m buying…End of story.”
This filter prevailed across a number of goods and services…with very interesting exceptions. For example:
Laundry detergent: “I’m a Tide girl…my family always bought Tide, so I buy Tide…whenever it is on sale or I have a coupon.”
Health and Beauty: “I know what (make-up/hair product) works and looks good on me…(despite price)…it is the cost of doing business.”
Bottled Water: “I do not drink tap water…ever. I buy what is on sale, but my favorite is Deer Park.”
But the prevailing guiding principle for Miss Reccesionista is clear and simple…
“I hate paying full price FOR ANYTHING…besides, who do you know is not interested in saving money?”
Now, let’s talk about coupons…
African-Americans are habitually big users of coupons.
The challenge has always been getting coupons into their hands. Miss Recessionista has adopted a pro-active stance when it comes to coupons.
Not only does she seek them out, she frequents establishments that distribute them with regularity. Coupons and brands that distribute them regularly are part of her DNA.
“Even if I have two in my cupboard, if it’s on sale and I have a coupon, I buy it.”
“My Sunday routine starts with the coupon section of the paper.”
When looking for an example of a brand engaged in a relationship with Miss Recessionista, CVS appeared to have that “on lockdown.” All three women cited CVS as their drug store of choice. In addition to selection,(“They stock everything in my bathroom and some of what is in my pocketbook”) CVS provides “incentive enticements” that elicit repeat visits from her:
Extra Care Card
Weekly Store Specials
In her view, these money saving programs represent an acknowledgement that while she has options, CVS understands what is important to her. Store exclusives like the Extra Care Card and The Weekly Store Specials, which feature the products she wants, demonstratesthat they value her.
Nevertheless, Miss Recessionista does not sacrifice.
“Despite the struggle, I still look good and while I’ve made some alterations, I haven’t missed a beat.”
Her priorities have not changed. She has simply reorganized them.
“My shopping list is the same, I just changed the order.”
In truth, Miss Recessionsita has emerged into Miss Revisionista!
She changed the rules.
And the brands that play by these rules will get her business.
Editor’s Note –
Special thanks to Jen, Deena, Mary, Latrese and the Elusive Butterfly for sharing their “ethnic insights.”