I'm James Wallman — author, entrepreneur, futurist. Welcome to The Future Is Here. We provide sensible, robust, useful strategic advice to people like you.

US, UK, EU government data reveal the extent of experientialism

In a perfect world, forecasting trends would be simple.

There would be clean, clear information about what people are thinking and the way the world is changing. In the real world though, forecasters like The Future Is Here have to make do with noisy, imperfect information.

Some trends are easy to track

Some trends, like colour blocking or animal prints, are easy to spot — especially when they are seasonal, in the mainstream press, out in the open, and everyone is wearing them.

But if the trend you're tracking is cultural change, it will be far harder to see clearly. If that's the case, you have to identify the trend through the shadows it casts and the footprints it makes.

That's how things were, a few years back, when I first forecast that our society's values are shifting from materialism to experientialism.

That's changing now. Those suggestions are coming out of the shadows, and turning into clear, hard, government data — as recently reported by investment firm KKR.

Americans spend less on stuff, more on experiences 

Data from the US government's Bureau of Economic Analysis shows that people are spending more again. But instead of spending on the same old stuff, they are spending on "non-traditional places of consumption".  (That's code for "experiential goods", as we're about to see.)

The analysts at KKR explain the US government data with reference to the graph below, and this statement:

"we believe that a major decoupling within retail sales is now occurring, with consumers choosing to spend on “experiences” rather than “things.”

Brits emphasise experiences

Data from the British government's Office of National Statistics shows that British people are spending a large percentage of their money on experiences.

Europeans are spending more on experiences

Data from the European Commission shows people in the UK, Germany, and Italy are spending more of their money on experiences.


Of course, there's a simple conclusion here. People in rich, western countries have got enough stuff. And they are spending more on experiences. 

For more, read the 5 new signs that signal the rise of experientialism.

Why you can't forecast sports

5 new signs that signal the rise of "experientialism"