The disappearing mid-market

The Economist has a thought-provoking article on the "two most noteworthy trends among the swelling ranks of middle-class consumers around the world—trends that appear to be, at first glance, at odds with each other. These are the tendencies for consumers to be more cost-conscious; but simultaneously more willing to splurge money on luxury items." Key takeaways:

  • Sales both at the top and bottom of the consumer market are rapidly growing while sales are being squeezed hard in the middle, though it is still the largest market segment in rich countries.
  • One reason [for trading down] why this change has taken place is that the discount retailers have raised the quality of their products. A second development is the rapid increase in transparency in consumer markets, thanks not least to the internet.
  • Americans, in particular, “have become addicted to the deal, which is leading them to do irrational things” … One consequence is that people buy lots of stuff they do not need … chiefly because it seems to be a bargain.
  • Companies that get stuck in the mid-market may be doomed. But as businesses trading up clash with those trading down, some of them may end up as losers, too.

Recommended reading on this topic:


The Omega-3 Connection by Dr Andrew Stoll

Found a surprisingly good book on health/nutrition at my local Ross store: “The Omega-3 Connection: The Groundbreaking Antidepression Diet and Brain Program” by Andrew L. Stoll, MD. This book covers the importance of Omega-3 fatty acids as a booster of mental health, an anti-depressant and an effective supplement for pregnancy. This book immediately caught my attention because of the earlier Economist article on the same subject, which had summarized the findings of the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, conducted over a period of 15 years with data on 14,000 expectant mothers and their offspring:

  1. the children of those women who had consumed the smallest amounts of omega-3 fatty acids during their pregnancies had verbal IQs six points lower than average.
  2. at 3½ years of age, those children with the best measures of fine-motor performance were the ones whose mothers had had the highest intake of omega-3s.
  3. a low intake of omega-3s during pregnancy led to higher levels of pathological social interactions such as an inability to make friends as a child grew up.

This book goes into great depth to explain the differences between the various kinds of fatty acids (from worst to best):

  • cholesterol (found in animal and dairy products)
  • trans-fatty acids (hydrogenated vegetable oil, margarine, and other synthetic products)
  • saturated fatty acids (coconut and palm oil)
  • monounsaturated fatty acids (oils from olives, canola, peanuts)
  • Omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (safflower oil, corn oil and sunflower seed oil)
  • Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (fish oil, flaxseed/linseed oil, flaxseeds and walnuts)

A nice read, heartily recommended!

Free executive summaries of Management Books!

MBA Depot has some great executive summaries of famous management books for free:

Biz Stone’s “Who Let the Blogs out?”

Just finished Biz Stone’s wonderful book on Blogging: Who Let the Blogs Out? : A Hyperconnected Peek at the World of Weblogs. This is one book every aspiring blogger and anyone curious about blogging should check out. Biz talks candidly about his personal experiences with blogging, his initial experiments at Xanga and how they led him to the prestigious post of Senior Specialist for Blogging at Google. He also takes us back in history and recounts the evolution of the blogosphere with an almost novel-like excitement. Filled with common-sense tips on topics like pseudonymity, terms of use, privacy, etiquette and linking, it is written in a warm personal tone and can infect even the non-believer with the blogging bug. He provides additional encouragement with tips for using blogs in business and with stories of people who made it big from their blogs, like the author of Belle de Jour: Diary of a London Call Girl who got a book deal from her blog.