How Accurate Were My Forecasts from Last Fall?
As a futurist I write and speak about long term trends. As an advisor and speaker to CEOs, I am looked to for more short term trends and forecasts. Last September, when the growing recession went into a global financial meltdown after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, I was constantly being asked about what was going to happen economically, about what was going on, how bad would it be and how long it would last. This led me to look both deeply and widely across the global economic stage to develop forecasts and predictions.
As I consume media widely these past few months I realize that, in large part because I am a futurist and not an economist I have been right, while the “consensus of experts” have often been wrong. I look at broad and long term trends and this current recession is part of a larger historic transition going on. It is a reorganizational recession between two ages, the Information Age and the Shift Age. Perhaps it is this long term viewpoint that has provided me with an accuracy missing from the “economic experts”
In a column entitled “The Collapse of the Third Economic Wave” dated 10/15/08 I proclaimed that the third wave of consumer spending had collapsed and that “Thrift would be the new extravagance” and that “thrift would be the new behavior and the cool thing to do” Since that column, the savings rate in the U.S. has gone from -.5% of income to 6.7% and of course main stream media has been full of stories about thrift.
In the column “A Shift in Consciousness has Occurred” I first wrote about what I now call a scarring. We have all been scarred by the events of the last year. We realize now that the only thing we can control is what we save. This scarring is not as bad as the scarring of the generation that lived through the depression, but it is a scar that will last for years if not for a decade. I have been saying for a year that the recovery of this recession will not be led by the consumers of the world. The recent stories in the media, with a tinge of surprise are about how retail sales are down. No surprise to this futurist!
A third column I wrote on 10/22/08 entitled “Future Economic Forecast” while general in nature, did have some correct forecasts:
-Debt will become the new four letter word around the world. People will move away from debt.
-We will witness one of the worst holiday retail seasons in history on a year to year comparison basis
-In January and February there will be a number of retail chain bankruptcies, particularly in the apparel sector and the middle market of department stores. Many chains will avoid bankruptcy but will close stores and retrench to survive.
-Some media companies, given the loss of retail advertising and a contraction in ad spending will declare bankruptcies, greatly downsize or seek acquirers or merger partners. Even media companies not reliant upon advertising will see some contraction.
-Discretionary spending will be based upon need and will largely occur only when items are deeply discounted. Postponement of purchases will be a common theme.
-The stock market will remain volatile. History will look back on the period of late 2008 to mid 2009 as the bottom of the fear based equity market we are now in.
Of course the accuracy of my forecasts provides value to my readers, audiences and clients. More importantly, it must be said that in times of great transformation, and now is one of those times, a futurist might have a better handle on the economic landscape than more traditional “economic pundits”.