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5 new signs that signal the rise of "experientialism"

Image: Flickr user KevCole

Image: Flickr user KevCole

A few years back, I forecast a future where:

  • people spend less on stuff, and move away from materialism

  • instead, they spend more on experiences, and give rise to a movement I call “experientialism”

In the past few weeks, there's been a number of new unmistakeable signs proving that this future is already here:

1. Washington Post 

  • In an article headlined “Shoppers are choosing experiences over stuff…” on January 8, 2016, the Washington Post reported that:

  • “Shoppers are passing up the cashmere sweaters or leather handbags and instead shelling out for experiences such as a beach vacation, a dinner out on the town or a concert"

  • Spending on air travel hit record levels last year

  • Restaurant sales were up a robust 8 percent in the first 11 months of 2015, easily outperforming the 2 percent increase seen in the overall retail industry

  • “People are saying, ‘I’ve got enough stuff. I want to pamper myself a bit and do something that makes me feel good,’ ” said Steven Kirn, executive director of the University of Florida’s retail education and research center.

2. Bloomberg Business

  • "Travel and leisure shares outperforming traditional retailers"
  • "Experiences trump stuff for generation born between 1980-2000"
  • “Leisure and travel-related stocks, including pubs, airlines and pizza restaurants, have trumped retailers since consumer confidence picked up following the financial crisis…”

  • For example, shares in budget airlines Ryanair and easyJet, and ski operator Vail Resort (pictured above) have risen seven times since their lows following the 2008 financial crisis.

  • (Note: I differ from Bloomberg in explaining these figures. They squarely believe the shift is due to Millennials: there's a lot of evidence that Millennials aren't bothered about stuff and want experiences instead. Consider the survey by Harris Poll and Eventbrite, which Bloomberg quotes, that shows 78% of millennials would rather pay for an experience than material goods. But I believe everyone's had enough of stuff. There's more evidence for this in Stuffocation.)

3. World Economic Forum

  • “America's lifestyle expectations are far too high and need to be adjusted so we have less things and a smaller, better existence… We need to reinvent our whole system of life.” — Jeff Greene, American property billionaire, speaking at the WEF in Davos to Bloomberg 

4. Mintel

  • The research company's recent report American Lifestyles 2015 shows that people are set to spend less on stuff, more on experiences.

  • Eg, US consumers will spend 27% more on vacations and dining out between 2015 and 2019 (the highest growth of any category). 

5. And then there's IKEA saying "we've hit peak stuff"…

If those five signs aren't enough to tempt you into believing in the fall of materialism and the rise of experientialism, maybe this will. A guy called Steve Howard, IKEA's sustainability chief, recently made the sort of statement you wouldn't expect to hear from a retailer in the business of selling stuff: “In the west we have probably hit peak stuff.

If you've come across any other data, either for or against the theory, I'd be interested to hear.


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

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