In Bobos in Paradise, David Brooks traced the cultural forces behind the rise of what he called the bohemian bourgeois class. Now Silverstein and Fiske take a close look at its buying patterns. Both authors have v-p–level experience at the Boston Consulting Group studying retail practices, and they display deep familiarity with "new luxury" goods favored by a growing segment of the American middle market with more disposable income than ever. They're talking about people who take shopping tips from Oprah and Martha, swear their washing machine makes them happy, and dine at "fast casual" restaurants instead of burger chains. Many chapters focus on companies that produce specific luxury items. Victoria's Secret, for example, was a small, seedy store before it was purchased by a visionary retailer convinced American women would be willing to pay higher prices for attractive lingerie in a boutique setting. There's also the case of Callaway Golf, which was able to target new luxury shoppers to achieve a tenfold increase in revenue within just three years. Even the toy market can become a breeding ground for high-end items, like American Girl dolls, a line with an extensive back story that appeals to the luxury consumer's desire to "know" the pedigree of his or her purchases (just as some wine aficionados jump at the chance to display their mastery of California vintages). Despite the book's slight technical flaws, including a high degree of repetitiveness, its insights into a highly lucrative market (e.g., single women earn in excess of $374 billion annually) make this a must read for anyone interested in practical economics. (Oct. 13)
Forecast:This book's intriguing subject and blurbs from Ram Charan (Execution), Seth Godin and other business book biggies should catapult it onto the pages of business magazines and newspapers. Its core audience is product developers, marketers, business strategists and social critics interested in the concept of branding.