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Home arrow Marketing Research News arrow Latest Market Research Findings arrow "Mainstreamers" Matter As Affluence Intersects With Luxury In The U.S.
"Mainstreamers" Matter As Affluence Intersects With Luxury In The U.S. PDF Print E-mail
Written by Shullman Research Center   
09 Jun 2016
By Bob Shullman
CEO/Founder, Shullman Research Center (
Recently, a luxury marketer who tends to focus specifically on the American affluent marketplace asked me if I knew how many adults with household incomes under $100,000 bought luxury products and services during the past 12 months. He felt that a fairly large number of consumers with household incomes under $100,000 also buy luxuries and that these valuable consumers are ignored by those surveys that measure only the affluent that they define as adults living in households with household incomes of $100,000 or more. I told him that my syndicated survey does measure that mainstream marketplace (the under $100,000 household-income segment that includes 168 million adults—the majority of American adults) as well as all the minority of adults (about 74 million) who are fortunate to live in what some surveys define as affluent households. Plus, with my survey, he could choose his household-income threshold according to how his brand defined affluence, not by the way some survey companies do..

After reviewing the requested statistics I sent him,, he told me he was astounded my survey indicated that, of the 67 million adults who reported they bought one or more luxuries in the past 12 months in the United States, 37 million (a majority of all American luxury consumers) stated they had household incomes less than $100,000. This luxury marketer was thus correct in thinking that a majority of American luxury buyers are not measured by all syndicated surveys conducted in the United States. I told him that when I was the CEO of another syndicated survey, a number of luxury brands talked with me about that survey’s not measuring what some luxury marketers called "mainstream" Americans — consumers who aspire to live a more luxurious life and from time to time buy a lower-priced luxury product or service.

As the following exhibit from my current survey indicates, mainstream Americans do report they buy luxuries (37 million of them compared to the 30 million who live in the $100,000 households), and they especially buy personal luxury goods, which were bought by some 25 million mainstream consumers, about the same number of personal luxury goods purchasers included in the more affluent ($100,000 or more) income segments. As noted in the exhibit below, "mainstreamers" are also very important buyers of other luxury categories—especially fine wine, beer, and spirits.

Past-12-Month Purchasers of Luxury Categories in Millions in the U.S.

"Mainstreamers" Matter As Affluence Intersects With Luxury In The U.S.

In only one category, designer clothing or accessories, were there more American luxury buyers from the $100,000+ household-income segments (11 million, compared with 6 million with household incomes under $100,000). Notably, the same number of "mainstreamers" as affluent consumers reported they bought a luxury vehicle (5 million).

If your organization markets a luxury brand in the United States, you need to be aware that "mainstreamers" matter, depending on what luxury category your organization is marketing, its positioning in its marketplace, and its starting price points. Also, if you are targeting Millennials, as most luxury brands are trying to do today in the United States, your organization needs to consider offering entry-level luxury goods or services with more affordable prices, as the vast majority of American Millennials not living with their parents are "mainstreamers" and a good number of them are aspiring to become affluent and live a reasonably luxurious life.
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