Silverstein and Fiske cut a hole in the ice of the US luxury market and drop a line into much deeper and broader waters.
While Trading Up studies a trend evinced by brands like Victoria's Secret and Viking stoves, the book is fascinating because it is not merely a dissection of successful marques.
The authors, who worked together as analysts at Boston Consulting Group before Fiske became CEO of Bath & Body Works, tease out the strands, explaining the dumbbell effect in consumer goods: growth in high-end products and stores, a parallel boom in value stores, and a decline in mid-range products and stores. The effect is a consequence of "rocketing" by consumers in every demographic: spending big on items they care a lot about and less on necessities.
The tone is sanguine - they're preaching to a choir of marketers - but they do make it fairly obvious that, besides accessibility and disposable cash, consumers are also filling a hole left by loneliness, stress, and frustration.
Title Trading Up: The New American Luxury
Authors Michael Silverstein and Neil Fiske
Publisher Portfolio (2003), 305 pages