“ If you are not a trendsetter, at least be able to exploit the ones you see.1 ”
- Jeffrey Fry, entrepreneur.
Some trends get their 15 minutes of fame and then shuffle off, stage left. (Think culottes and Google Glass.)2,3 Then there’s that other group. These trends may be under-the-radar, but like tectonic plates shifting under the Earth, they’re likely to create seismic social change.
Here are consumer trends, identified by Euromonitor International in 2019, that we expect will only gain strength into 2020 and beyond— and what it might mean for investors.4
A Senior Moment
What was the fastest-growing age group in Canada between 2011 and 2016? If you answered those over the age of 100, pour yourself a mug of cocoa. Yes, according to Statistics Canada, the centenarian population grew by 41.3 per cent, with women outnumbering men by 5-to-1. The number of Canadians aged 85-plus grew four times the overall rate of the general population during this time period.5
We can thank good genes, but also better access to healthcare, improved diet and lifestyle habits for our increasingly long lives. The idea that those aged 65-plus, retire and then fall off a cliff, (or the 18th hole on a golf course), is as outdated as wearing bloomers. As scientific diagnostics are now better able to distinguish between biological age and chronological age, people may claim to be as old or young, as they feel, not the date on their birth certificate.6
British actress Dame Judi Dench said it best:
“ I don’t want to be told that I’m too old to do something…it’s not to do with age, it’s something to do with inside.7 ”
This ties into two other key trends: Living and Self-Sufficiency. As more singles—by choice or circumstance—live alone, the stigma of solo living is reduced. By 2030, the number of single-person households is estimated to increase by 120 million, or 30 per cent, from 2018.8
Still, as a creative solution to loneliness and security needs, as well as the high cost of rents and real estate in major Canadian cities, a growing number of people, especially senior women, are choosing group living arrangements.9 Also, increasing self-sufficiency means that, instead of being dependent on government services, these co-housing arrangements include dedicated accommodation for future healthcare needs, such as nursing care and household management.
What it means for investors:
- Factor a longer lifespan into your own investment plan.
- Identify companies that provide the goods and services that appeal to the “forever young” senior, such as lifelong learning, group adventure travel, beauty and wellness, specialized employment services, purpose-built shared housing, etc.
You know something is afoot when a fur-loving fashionista like Anna Wintour, editor of Vogue, devotes the flagship September issue to sustainable fashion in which designers like Donatella Versace, discuss their choice to go fur-free. (“Fur? I am out of that. I don’t want to kill animals to make fashion—it doesn’t feel right.”)10 And when KFC, the poster child for battery hens, announces a partnership with Beyond Meat, the vegetable-based meat substitute,11 it’s an inflection point.
Sustainability is no longer a fringe movement but a key pillar for many businesses—and investors. It goes by several different terms, such as “socially responsible investing” (SRI) or “environmental/social/governance” (ESG). Over $30 trillion (USD), around a quarter of all investable equity funds, is professionally managed under the ESG mandate.12 Canadian investors contributed over $2 trillion to funds with a responsible investing approach representing over 50% of all funds under management.13
A concurrent trend is a preference among consumers for Quality Over Quantity. Instead of “fast fashion” and other disposable purchases, shoppers are gravitating toward artisanal and higher-quality products meant to last, which also includes recycled and upcycled goods as status items. There is also a Rejection of Plastic Packaging and companies which produce unnecessary waste, 70 per cent of which ends up in landfills.14
What it means for investors:
- As a sign of the times, CEOs of almost 200 publicly traded companies stated that maximizing shareholder value is no longer their main objective. Instead, investing in employees, servicing customers, and dealing ethically with suppliers and communities have moved the front-of-the-line with shareholders simply being one of many stakeholders.15
Socializing is good for our mental and physical health but being sucked into the social media vortex has the opposite effect. Heads up: JOMO (joy of missing out) has unfriended FOMO (fear of missing out) because people are feeling burnt out! When even the CEO of Google announces a “digital wellbeing initiative” you know it’s real. A Google survey showed that the average person unlocks her phone 180 times per day to read or respond to texts, alerts, emails, social media posts, or just because.16 In 2017 Euromonitor International’s Lifestyle Survey found that 64 per cent of Canadians agreed with the statement: “I find I am looking for ways to simplify my life.”
People have also become more impatient. We Want it Now: information, services, and instant gratification! Frictionless
What it means for investors:
- A growing demand for goods and services that help us disconnect from technology, such as wifi-free spaces and digital detox retreats.
- Business opportunities to reduce or eliminate consumer “pain points” such as housecleaning, commuting, food shopping and preparation.
Rita Silvan, CIM™, is personal finance and investment writer and editor. She is the former editor-in-chief of ELLE Canada magazine and is an award-winning journalist and tv media personality. Rita is the editor-in-chief of Golden Girl Finance, an online magazine focusing on women’s financial success. When not writing about all things financial, Rita explores Toronto’s parks with her standard poodle.