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Consumer Habits are Shifting Ahead of Industries
It’s been apparent that the middle is not where retailers want to be for some time. However, led by changing demographics and economics, industries that were built on high-end continuous consumption and upgrades are in for a shock as well. Where previous consumers could be relied on to search for the latest and greatest, new consumers are more willing to settle for a product that meets their needs, does the job, but doesn’t break the bank. And the fact is, new manufacturing techniques and design knowledge mean that products in the middle or even the lower end are pretty darn good. They might not feature the latest technology, but they will reliable do what is asked of them. One sector likely to be be hit the hardest is outdoor gear and it will have profound affects on the passionate group of manufacturers. Here are just a few examples:
Cycling – For years bike manufacturers have been dedicated to performance and technology. Enthusiast have lined up to get the next greatest thing. Cutting weight, finding the right balance of strength, comfort and performance have been the holy grail. It came at a price, and a high one at that. Modern entry level and mid-range bikes are very competent, and may be all that many cyclist will ever need for years.
Golfing – For years golfers have believed that a new driver, putter or ball will magically cut their strokes and lower their scores. Golf manufacturers have been happy to oblige with continuous upgrades in every facet of the game. But as new audiences fail to hit the links, and interest wains, manufacturers won’t be able to play it where it lies. They’ll have to make adjustments.
Archery – While a bow and arrow is often considered primitive, the modern compound bow is anything but. Each year bow manufacturer continually try to improve the performance of their bows with faster speeds, higher let-offs, and smoother releases. Many of the high-end bows were sensitive to adjustments and required special tuning to get the max performance. Now bows are available off the rack that shoot nearly as well as top flight models just a few years ago, at a lower price, and without the setup work.
Fishing – The right tool for the job necessitates that many serious fisherman carried multiple rods and reels to match different situation. Modern reels and rods have improved in their reliability and ability to handle multiple situations. As the technology works down to the lower-priced outfits, many anglers are able to do more with less.
Return of the Middle? Not Quite
Don’t believe that this is a return to the middle. Hardly. While new audiences, millenials specifically, might be satisfied with a “good enough” product, they also care about experiences. That’s part of what drives these purchase decisions. For example, they want a bike to create an experience, but the experience is the important part. The bike has to function and perform, but it is not the focus.
Because they crave experiences, they love stories. Brands that have a story, create a great buying experience, and enable the buyer to better create their own stories, will win with these new evolving audiences.