Child's Play

Upward Mobility

The newly flush rush to spend.

What a difference prosperity makes. With two-thirds of Americans rating the economy "excellent" or "good" in a recent Gallup poll, it's clear businesses have much to celebrate--or, rather, much to sell. And make no mistake: Consumers are buying.

"Retail sales are rising faster than incomes," notes Roger Blackwell, professor of marketing at The Ohio State University in Columbus. "This increasing confidence is affecting sales of everything from Beanie Babies to bathtubs."

What's particularly interesting is the behavior of the newly affluent--boomtimers, if you will. Thanks to boomtimers, luxury movie theaters that serve fine wines are making their debuts. Even upscale products in categories like diapers and food-storage bags are being picked up by consumers.

But don't mistake these consumers for show-offs. "It would be wrong to say people are buying [premium products and services] just as badges of prosperity," says Blackwell, author of From Mind to Market: Reinventing the Retail Supply Chain (HarperBusiness). "[The products and services] are symbols of quality."

So boomtimers are on a quest for quality? Yes--and convenience. "In a prosperous economy," concludes Blackwell, "[consumers will] buy the best if they feel the value is there."

Next: Flash! »

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This article was originally published in the September 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Child's Play.

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