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Emerging “Two-Tier Economy” Changes Product-Markets

bmwm4The economic recovery in the United States has not been the same across the income spectrum. While the wealthiest 5% are doing quite well, those in the traditional “middle class” have not seen similar gains. This Wall Street Journal article “How a Two-Tier Economy Is Reshaping the U.S. Marketplace” (January 29 2015, non-subscribers click here) points out that those at the top 5% of the income scale spent an inflation adjusted 12% more from 2009 to 2012. During that same time period, the bottom 95% spent 1% less. It also reports the top 5% now account for 30% of all spending — up from 23% just twenty years earlier. The article details some of the implications for sellers of cars, houses, and beer. Hint, apparently that $64,000 BMW M4 (see inset photo) is a hot seller.

Similar income distribution exists in China — and this has influenced the smartphone market there. Another Wall Street Journal article “In Smartphone Market, It’s Luxury or Rock Bottom” (February 1, non-subscribers click here) which describes the Chinese market, where Apple’s iPhone stands alone as a “luxury” and brands like Xiaomi (at on third the price of an iPhone with similar technical specs) dominate the low end.

This story has implications for when you cover segmentation and targeting (many of these firms are now targeting premium or budget — not the middle any longer) or consumer behavior.

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