The New Consumer—Treasure Hunt Culture

Middle-class consumers worldwide are reshaping the consumer goods market. They are better educated, have more disposable income, and are more sophisticated than ever. They approach consumption with both seriousness and pleasure. In the United States, 48 million households earn between $50,000 and $150,000 annually, and they control 75 percent of all discretionary spending, which means they control the market.

New patterns of spending and saving:

Trading Down. Consumers relentlessly search for the best deal but will not compromise on technical or functional benefits. They save money wherever possible so they can have money available for other types of goods.

Trading Up. Most middle-class consumers have one or two categories in which they will spend a disproportionate amount of their income. These are items of exceptional value to the individual or the family.

Stockpiling. Many consumers keep an eagle eye out for specials and particularly good deals. They'll buy extra quantities of goods that are not needed at the moment and dip into them at times of particular physical or emotional need.

Getting Stuck. Sometimes consumers have no choice—usually as a result of convenience or urgent need—but to buy goods they must have, even though they do not offer the right balance of price and value.

Reinventing. Often consumers will change their spending patterns when life stages shift or events such as a change in employment, household status, health, or location take place.

Shopping Addiction. Some middle-class consumers buy things they don't need and may not even want, just for the sake of buying, getting a deal, beating out a rival bidder at auction, or having the thrill of the retail moment.