CINCINNATI: Abandon hope all ye who thought the world might yet buck a mega-recession, for the moving finger hath well and truly writ. From the art deco canyons of downtown Cincinnati come the ill tidings: Procter & Gamble has revised its current quarter growth forecast - downward!
In October the world's largest advertiser projected sales growth of between 4%-6%, a range it now admits it won't reach. Moreover, P&G remains coy as to the likely shortfall.
Addressing an investors meeting in New York, chairman/ceo Alan G Lafley (pictured above) told the moneymen: "P&G is recession-resistant but not recession-proof."
Consumers, he said, are currently indulging in "pantry deloading", Lafley-speak for using products already on hand rather than those on stores' shelves. Moreover, shoppers are also trading down to private-label goods and lower-priced branded products. On the upside, P&G's less expensive brands are gaining sales.
He hopes to "see early signs of recovery" next year and unveiled strategies to boost results, among them continued aggressive cost cutting, increased distribution in emerging markets and the introduction of more products able to command premium prices.
Lafley continued to focus on the upside, predicting that despite the recession consumers will pay more for some of the fmcg giant's added-value products such as Crest Pro-Health and the latest Olay 'professional' skin-care line.
Costs – always in P&G's line of fire whatever the economic climate – will remain the firm's prime target and cuts are planned in R&D for its pharmaceuticals business, which includes a handful of brands, such as osteoporosis drug Actonel.
But growth remains the name of the game for non-prescription pharma brand lines such as Vicks, Metamucil and Oral-B.
Meantime, Lafley referred to P&G's perennial philosophy, pursued in good times as well as bad. Put the squeeze on suppliers. In this instance ad agencies and media owners.
His closing words were veritable music to the ears of the moneymen: "This is a big opportunity," Lafley told them. "We just walk in and say, 'tear up the contract'."
Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff