Michael’s Consumer Column

I Get Lucky

A week ago, I visited the New York offices of Lucky, a magazine that celebrates shopping. It is one of the fastest-growing magazines in the world.

Lucky has captured the spirit of the U.S. female consumer. She wants a magazine that really shows her the goods, provides her with agents of convenience, and helps her find the best values available so that she can push her money as far as it can go.

The editors of Lucky invited me to speak with about one hundred of their advertisers about my most recent book, Treasure Hunt. The audience comprised mostly women who work at retailers, manufacturers, and service companies.

After I spoke, they responded, “You understand me. I look for value in everything I buy. I trade up in a handful of goods. I love shoes, watches, new suits.”

One woman stood up in front of the group. Her question came with a preamble. “Notice this outfit,” she said. “I’m just like that woman you talked about who skipped lunch for a week in order to afford a nice bra from Victoria’s Secret. This outfit is a size 8,” she said. “And I had to diet for two weeks to fit into it.” The audience broke into spontaneous applause. After the clapping died down, the woman posed her question. “So,” she asked, “what should a company do if it gets caught in the middle?”

I told her that the middle market is in a long, slow boil. The only way for a company to keep from succumbing is by understanding that consumers want either luxury or utility, and they want value in both. They don’t want mediocre goods, and they don’t want to pay more than they have to.

This is a time when consumers can make choices. They’re lucky, and they know it.