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The changing face of consumers



Speaking at last month’s Vision Consumer Products conference in New Orleans, Dan Butler of the National Retail Federation (NRF) shared some general observations on the global retail market.



By Karen McIntyre, Editor



Published February 29, 2012
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The biggest change in retail, he said, is how fast the rate of change is. Today’s retailers are changing the way they gauge consumer satisfaction or purchasing patterns. At the same time, consumers are becoming more frugal, driven not only by economic concerns but also by a need to reduce their environmental footprint.

Among the interesting observations Butler made during this presentation was the fact that today, 38% gauge their consumers’ satisfaction daily, usually in practices unheard of just a few years ago. From survey incentives, Facebook and Twitter, these retailers are in constant communication with customers, meaning that they can amend the shopping experience or product mix to meet their everchanging needs. Consumers, meanwhile, have a shorter attention span than ever before and are influenced by multiple sources at once.

While markets for nonwoven products like diapers, construction materials or wall coverings may not be as dynamic as say the clothing markets, manufacturers doing business in this space should be responding to these changes. Already, many brands—Boogie Wipes, Pampers, Huggies, etc.—are using Facebook or Twitter to get a message out to their consumers or even to create a forum for their customers to sound off about serious issues facing them, but how seriously are they using these platforms to gauge what their customers want? How well are their customers responding to these sites?

Speaking of customers, the average consumer in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is changing even more quickly than their Western counterpart. This month, we take a look at how the market for nonwovens in this developing region is not only expanding but is booming. With Procter & Gamble poised to begin diaper production there—and several nonwovens producers and other suppliers following suit—there is no doubt that things are going to change in the hygiene markets in places like Egypt, Algeria, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. This will surely mean great things for nonwovens as the populations in these regions trend on the young side with 50% or more of the population under the age of 18 in some countries. This combined with lower penetration levels, rising birth rates and increasing disposable incomes will create nice opportunitiess for growth in many markets for nonwovens.

In fact, EDANA is so bullish about this region that this month, the European nonwovens association will host a special symposium dedicated to the Middle East and North Africa in Dubai. Already predicted to be a success, this event shows how important the region is to nonwovens moving foward.