Last Updated Oct 22, 2008 11:46 AM EDT
In the 1990s and 2000s we stocked up on wide-screen TVs, SUVs, and 12-room homes for our three-member families. But not today. Not tomorrow.
The American consumptionist is dialing back, selling off, and figuring out what is really important in his life. In this trend Harvard Business School marketing professor John Quelch sees the emergence of a new consumer class. Say hello to the "simplifier."
And good luck selling them stuff.
Writing on his Harvard Business Publishing blog How Recession Will Accelerate Consumer Downsizing, Quelch identifies a monumental shift in attitude:
"She finds herself surrounded by too much stuff acquired. She is increasingly skeptical in the face of a financial meltdown that it was all worth the effort. Out will go luxury purchases, conspicuous consumption, and a trophy culture. Tomorrow's consumer will buy more ephemeral, less cluttering stuff: fleeting, but expensive, experiences, not heavy goods for the home."If you peddle luxury stoves or lobster pots, this not a good thing. But if you sell experiences, memories, such as foreign vacations, exquisite dining experiences, sports lessons--you might be in line to pick up more business from Simplifiers, Quelch suggests.
How can you spot Simplifiers? First, they have money--they just don't want to show it off. They are selling their excess purchases on eBay, and moving to smaller homes. "They reject the marketer's continual pressure to spend more money on possessions rather than on education, health care, and other social goods," Quelch says.
Read his post for more ideas on how this emerging consumer class changes the business landscape.