NEW YORK CITY-Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst with Port Washington, NY-based NPD Group, gave insight into the modern consumer during Monday’s Credit Suisse First Boston Retail, Apparel and Restaurant Conference. In his speech, Cohen spelled out the desires of today’s customer, while offering opportunities to meet those rising needs.

Today, consumers are being targeted to become committed consumers, or consumers who sign on to long-term buying on items such as cable television, satellite television, internet access, cell phones and gyms. Cohen, a research analyst, said that according to US government statistics, the average income is $45,000, or $41,000 after taxes. According to his configurations, once basic needs are met the consumer is left with $4,000 a year or $333 a month, of which two-thirds is already spent before walking out the door.

“This is the future, to get consumers to spend the money before they walk out the door,” an enthusiastic Cohen said. “This is where the future is going to be: To pre-spend on products.”

Cohen gave examples including product-of-the-month clubs like chocolate of the month, wine of the month, beer of the month, and cigar of the month. He also referenced companies like Netflix, which has turned Blockbuster’s business “topsy-turvy.” Taking this type of product sales model, he posed to retailers the question, “What about a pantyhose of the month?”

This is the largest issue facing retailers today, Cohen suggested. He said that retailers today are missing the mark by not giving consumers what they are looking for. Today’s consumer is about psychographics, not demographics, he said. In looking at the lifestyle of the consumer, retailers will be able to better target their audience.

Cohen surveyed 64,000 consumers and found staggering results. He learned that the younger generation is the key driver to the growth in the tailored suit industry; color is placing drama back into the retail; and that 42% of consumers “hate to try on clothes.” He also pointed out that despite the fact that 33% of men shop for big-and-tall sizes, only 10% of retailers offer those sizes; and although 40% of consumers shop for plus-sizes, only 18% of retailers serve that market.

These findings have created substantial opportunities for retailers, said Cohen. By understanding what would answer customer concerns, as well as educating consumers on how to use new products that fit their busy lifestyles, he said retailers could pinpoint the right marketing strategy to create better brand awareness.

“Lifestyle is what consumer is interested in; this is what lifestyle branding is,” Cohen said. “It’s not just putting soap in front of the store. It’s not how old your customer is; it’s how old your customer feels. It’s physchographics versus demographics. It’s not about the transaction; it’s about transformation. It’s not selling; it’s educating. It’s about helping your customer learn how this product will help them.”

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