Surviving isn’t sexy.

That was the message from a New York Timescolumnist who weighed in on which companies will emerge from the present economic recession.

Gretchen Morgenson, who spoke on Feb. 11 at Fordham as part of the American Age Lecture Series, said industries with staying power can be considered pretty boring.

“It’s all very mundane, but this is the kind of moment we’re in,” said Morgenson, Times columnist and assistant business and financial editor.

Such industries include:

• Low-priced retailers, such as Walmart and Costco.
• Grocery stores, which will thrive because more people are eating at home.
• Food companies, such as Coca Cola, which sell products in those grocery stores.
• Low-priced retailers and restaurants, such as McDonald’s and Subway.

“Companies that rely heavily on debt are going to be in trouble, because now people are concerned with paying off their debt,” Morgenson said. “But the banks that didn’t succumb to lax lending—small banks in small towns—are going to be running circles around their competitors.”

In addition to large banks and financial service companies, which were hit hard because of the frozen credit market and record-high foreclosures, other losers in this recession are home builders, automakers and luxury goods manufacturers, Morgenson said.

“Discretionary spending is way down. People are questioning the need for that $1,000 purse,” she said. “I can’t believe we’ll go back [to spending beyond our means]. I’ve interviewed people who have lost their homes, filed for bankruptcy and have no credit cards. Consumers feel this has been so awful.”

As for the future of newspapers, which are dependent on the financial health of other industries for their advertising revenue, Morgenson said she had no million-dollar solution.

“Obviously, the New York Times is a huge force on the Web. We have the most unique visitors,” she said. “We just have to figure out how to make that profitable, and that’s a conundrum—not just for us, for everyone [in the print industry].”

The American Age Lecture Series, which is sponsored by the Office of Student Leadership and Community Development, strives to embody the spirit of the Fordham community through programs that educate, stimulate and enhance the college experience.


Gina Vergel is Senior Director of Communications. She oversees the digital news coverage, public relations, and social media for the university. Before joining Fordham in 2007, Gina worked as a reporter for the Home News Tribune, and The Ridgewood News, where she won Society of Professional Journalist (New Jersey chapter) awards for breaking news and feature writing, respectively. She can be reached at [email protected] or (646) 579-9957.