The New Consumer

December 1998

Managing:Your Market

The New Consumer

They're time-starved, self-indulgent and crave information. And by the way, they don't shop much in malls anymore

Get to know the new consumer. That's the advice of George Whalin of Retail Management Consultants, who spoke at the recent Pacific Jewelry Show. He listed these attributes of the new consumer:

  • Time-starved. Everyone is in a hurry to get things done.
  • Ethnically and culturally diverse. "If you can't speak Spanish in some parts of the country, you're at a disadvantage."
  • More value-conscious than ever.
  • Interested in quality.
  • Willing to indulge themselves.
  • Value honesty and integrity.
  • Crave information.
  • Shop in fewer stores than ever.
  • Believe the experience is as important as the merchandise.

Whalin advised retailers to "brand their stores," that is, make the store itself into a brand. To do this, you should distinguish your store by its appearance, its business philosophy, its position in the market, its image and reputation and its sales and marketing strategies, he said. Through such branding, jewelers can quickly convey their stores embody the qualities shoppers demand.

Beyond the common shopping patterns of today's consumers, you should consider other factors when marketing based on a customer's age, he said. He described the current generations, indicating the potential buying strengths of each.

Three-quarters of all money in savings-and-loan institutions is put there by seniors, loosely defined as those over age 50, though Baby Boomers entering this age group like to avoid the label. And the elderly senior population is expected to grow. By 2005, 6 million people will be 85 or older.

Baby Boomers
Baby Boomers should be divided into two groups: those born from 1946 to 1955, who are in their peak earning years and causing an explosion in the sale of luxury goods; and those born from 1956 to 1964, who are still climbing the pay ladder.

Gen X
Those born from 1965 to 1980 comprise Generation X. The 44.6 million members of this group hold a combined $125 billion in annual spending power, Whalin said. Gen-Xers are skeptical and irreverent, technologically sophisticated, market- and product-savvy, brand-driven and unlikely to read newspapers.

Gen Y
Whalin also mentioned today's children – the echo Baby Boom that is sometimes called Generation Y. Whalin pointed out the 51.7 million school-age children in the U.S. are your future customers. Though it's clearly too soon to guess what characteristics will mark today's kids when they grow up, the fact their parents have taught them to be spenders at an early age bodes well for consumer purchases such as jewelry in the future.

– by Jack Heeger

 Don't Call Me a Senior!

Baby boomers aren't going gently into their older years. Marketers will pay the price if they aren't attuned to the generation's collective sensitivity about the issue, says a recent article in Stores magazine. The trouble is, Baby Boomers don't fit neatly into age stereotypes.

If they acted like their parents did at the same ages, older Boomers would be celebrating their kids' college graduations; instead, many are checking grade school homework. While the previous generation honored the lifetime job and looked forward to early and generous retirement packages, many Boomers are entering their 50s with new jobs and start-up companies.

Appeals to Boomers based on formerly common benchmark behaviors may offend them by suggesting they're getting old or acting predictably.

Despite middle-aged Boomers' protests, however, there are a few generalities experts can discern that should drive marketing efforts:

  • Travel, new experiences and nostalgia fascinate the generation endlessly fascinated with itself. Take advantage by offering travelogues of the exotic places where jewelry store products originate and the latest information on new and different gemstones, metal finishes and gem cuts. Don't forget nostalgia: Boomers adore looking back to their own youths and other periods of history. This suggests a continued interest in vintage and reproduction jewelry.
  • Boomers shop less often in malls, department stores and discount stores, according to a recent survey by WSL Strategic Retail. They shop more in non-clothing specialty stores such as Warner Bros., Franklin Mint and Remembrance, citing such factors as great atmosphere and entertaining merchandise. Jewelers could take advantage of the trend by working at the "retail-tainment" side of their businesses (as long as the entertainment portion doesn't distract from the retail portion) and by offering merchandise that tells a story.
  • Boomers have learned many of today's clothing styles don't flatter middle-aged bodies. This may be one reason they buy less and that when they do buy, it's likely to be classically styled clothing, and most often from specialty stores and catalogs. One reason for The Gap's success is it offers reasonably priced, classic styles. The money left from such frugal buying presents a real opportunity for luxury goods retailers. In addition, jewelers could learn from The Gap's ad campaign. Rather than risk offending any group, the retailer features ads with singer Lena Horne one minute and rapper LL Cool J the next. Such cross-generational marketing helps Boomers feel they're not getting older – just better and cooler.
  • Boomers want solutions. Many older Boomers frequent stores that make shopping easy. Products such as interchangeable or day-to-evening jewelry, services such as visiting customers at their workplace and easy-to-use Internet sites could be as important as the jewelry you carry in holding Boomers' loyalty.


Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.


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