Live Action

Downward, Ho!

Forget the yuppies. If you want to reach a market that's vast yet overlooked by competition both large and small, check out the downscale market.

According to the Census Bureau's Annual Demographic Survey, more than 36 million American households brought in less than $25,000 in 1996. Yet relatively few businesses target these lower-income consumers. "This market is at the short end of the stick when it comes to media planning," says Arthur Schiff, publisher of New York City-based City Family and La Familia de la Ciudad, free magazines that are distributed bimonthly to more than 150,000 lower-income households in the New York City-area.

"[Lower-income consumers] are denigrated or taken for granted, yet they're powerful consumers," Schiff says. "Their [demographic] numbers are very strong. And in these communities, you see the very essence of optimism and enthusiasm for the American dream."

In other words, you don't have to be a Starbucks groupie to want and need basic goods and services. Though downscale consumers are often shunned, their economic clout can be considerable. Dan Bonfiglio, co-owner of Pacific Partners Mortgage Corp. in Woodland Hills, California, reports that a substantial percentage of his home-loan business comes from low- to moderate-income clients. Says Bonfiglio, "We're able to tap into a market that very few competitors are serving effectively."

Contact Sources

City Family, 444 Park Ave. S., #402, New York, NY 10016, (212) 252-0698

D S Simon Productions, 307 Seventh Ave., #2103, New York, NY 10001, (212) 727-7770

Eventz Extraordinaire, (888) 276-0888, (714) 460-0888

Pacific Partners Mortgage Corp., (800) 607-1794, http://www.pacpartners.com

Technicolor, 3233 E. Mission Oaks Blvd., Camarillo, CA 93010, (800) 732-4555

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This article was originally published in the December 1997 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Live Action.

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