Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Call me a boomer, call me a dink, call me a Simplifier, what do you think?

Last weekend B. and I were heading out to run a few errands and between stops I flipped my cell phone open and gave daughter LauraRN a call.

She asked what we were doing, and I told her we were just dinking around.

She laughed and pointed out that "dinking around" was exactly what we were doing: As Double Income, No Kids people, we were now officially DINKS.

Gee, it seemed like only yesterday we were SINKS (Single Income, no kids) and a few other variations of acronyms.

Of course for a whole life time we've been Boomers. As in Post WWII Baby Boomers. Wow, Post WWII...that sounds positively ancient doesn't it?

I just read this article and discovered I have slid into yet another title: Simplifier.

Sounds kind of practical doesn't it? Less stuff, more life. Oh yeah.

Read all about it below, then tell me what YOU think.
Are you shifting in simplify? How is that transition going? How far do you think it will go?

(And while I do know that pasting an entire article on one's blog without author's permission is a huge copyright no-no, I am going to stick to my new roots, and simplify this read by pasting it right here where you can read it easy!)

How Recession Will Accelerate Consumer Downsizing
Posted by John Quelch on October 15, 2008 3:01 PM

Watch out for a new brand of consumer in 2008: the middle-aged Simplifier. 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.
The economic boom of the 1990s fuelled consumption and democratized access to a wider than ever spectrum of goods transforming former luxuries into "must-have" necessities. Millions played the lotteries or aspired to what they viewed on "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous". As they grew richer, pressure increased on those below to trade up. And, as they traded up, pressure increased in turn on the well-off to buy even more--the second home, the big screen TV and the latest sport-utility vehicle. Enter the big houses that measured success in thousands of square feet of floor space, topped by the 40,000 square feet, $50m palace that Bill Gates has built outside Seattle. In 2006, 35% of new homes exceeded 2,400 square feet in floor space compared with 18% in 1986. Ironically, these mansions, many owned by business people on the road half the time, grew in number as the size of the average American household declined.
These huge houses had to be filled with more stuff, good news for the home-appliance and home-furnishing industries. Even grocery manufacturers benefited. Larger homes with bigger refrigerators can absorb more inventory. Flat birth rates in developed economies have put pressure on durable consumer-goods companies desperate for top-line growth. Product quality improvements mean these goods break down less often. So durable-goods sales depend on two things: the launch of new, higher-priced, higher-featured, often customized products that persuade consumers to trade in their existing appliances before they break down (think cell phones), as well as household penetration of products such as fax machines and printers previously used only by businesses.
As the world economy slumps, one consumer segment will grow faster than ever. The Simplifiers have four characteristics.
First, they perceive that they have more stuff than they need. Sure, they may collect something specific like porcelain figurines as a hobby, but they are the opposite of the pack rats who fill their attics and basements with "you-never-know-when-you-might-need-it" stuff.
Second, they want to collect experiences, not possessions. And they give experiences rather than goods as gifts to friends and relatives. Experiences may seem ephemeral. They cannot be inventoried except in the form of "Kodak" moments; but they do not tie you down, require no maintenance, and permit variety-seeking instincts to be quickly satisfied. Dining out, foreign travel, learning a new sport will prove more resilient than expected in the face of recession.
Third, their stuff embarrasses them. Their Range Rovers no longer tell the world that they are sophisticated town and country socialites. There are simply too many of them on the road to offer much social status. Worse, they now signal the irresponsible selection of a gas-guzzler.
Fourth, they have wealth that is so assured that it no longer requires conspicuous display. They lease their cars, rent other people's holiday homes, and would happily outsource other aspects of their lifestyles. They reject the marketer's continual pressure to spend more money on possessions rather than on education, health care, and other social goods.
These are the consumers who are now trading in their sport-utility vehicles. They include the empty-nester baby-boomers, less confident than before, who are tired of heating unused spaces in cavernous mansions, now preferring smaller houses with architectural character and intimate spaces, more charm and less maintenance. Their families are scattered, unable to share conveniently the family holiday home and often unwilling to inherit the burden of something they will never use. The new economy has made it even easier for consumers to get rid of their stuff. The high-tech equivalents of the yard sale, electronic auction sites, bring Simplifiers together with those who are yet to catch the habit.
This growing segment of Simplifiers presents a challenge to marketers. These are well-off people who value quality over quantity and do not buy proportionately more goods as their net worth increases. Their increasing reluctance to consume will dampen expected demand growth in developed economies further and therefore slow economic recovery, requiring consumer-goods multinationals to further focus their efforts on emerging markets where stuff will still be king.
This post is based in part on Professor Quelch's Economist article "Too Much Stuff."


Lovella said...

Hmmm, well I certainly did a lot of simplifying when we moved to the farm. Take a full house and divide it in half and decide what comes with and what doesn't. We left the pool table, the second table and chairs, the extra bedroom furniture. . and now, I regularly wonder where all the stuff keeps coming from and I continually declutter. I can't stand clutter anymore. . I still love my SUV though, so I guess I have a ways to go.

Vicki said...

Like Lovella, I love my SUV, too, but not the gas consumption! But, I'm being frugal - it's paid-for and well-maintained, and even though it's over 11 years old, it still gets about 16-18 mpg.

Yep, we joined the Simplistic group officially last December when we gave away half of our household, although we've been reducing for quite some time now. (Did the writer call my nearly 2700sf home a 'mansion?!!')

Our Christmas gifts over the past few years have been more about experiences than stuff (like beach vacations, concerts, etc.). This year, I'm not buying much... mainly, the kids need cash and the mothers need cash and Doc and I aren't exchanging. For the past four years, I haven't put much under the tree. Instead, I drag out the kids' boxed-up stuffed animals and arrange them under the tree (it gives Spooky company when she naps under there).

The "shoe" fits: I'm a boomer, a DINK, and a Simplifier, too!

Kate said...

Saw a billboard on a recent Texas visit, advertising a senior living community, that read "Downsize to a Bigger Life!" I turned to my Sweetie, smugly, and said, "We've already done that!" Two years in Switzerland were the prize. It's liberating not to be chained to things tho' I still love acquiring - especially now that I have a new nest to feather. It's small tho' and I'm judicious about what I add to it. Comfort is more about connection than stuff, I think.

Happy Thanksgiving! Don't we have so much to be thankful for!

Sara said...

Yep, the shoe fits, and I'm wearing it! My lifestyle has been kinda simple all along...never had the big house, the SUV (but wanted both, I admit, once upon a time)...yet still there is too much "stuff" that I am always getting rid of. Most of my clutter, however, seems to be books and knick knacks inherited from family and friends....I don't mind that kind of clutter.

My hubby and I were once DINKs, but have graduated to RINKs (retired income, no kids) - whoo hoo. Or, anyway, once I am done with this temporary job, it will be WHOO HOO all the way!

Julie said...

hmmm .. I think I am a Simplifier ...but a little too sentimental to separate myself from ALL my stuff... I don't know when I might NEED IT !! But I've never been big on the status things... I love people more than stuff !!! thanks for an interesting read !!

Vicki said...

Y'know what? I goofed. I said in my comment above that I was a dink...I gave that up a few years ago to allow me to travel with Doc! Guess I'm still a boomer and a simplifier, but we're a sink and not a dink!

Don't laugh too hard!