Ever notice when there’s a strong trend towards something, a counter trend pops up. The counter trend may not be as large but it’s real and clearly identifiable. Here are a few examples.
Vinyl records are starting to become popular as digital downloads are crushing CDs.
Film is making a comeback as smartphones are taking over low-end digital.
High end stores counter the low-cost discounters.
Finally, high quality consumer goods are replacing plastic, disposable goods.
Let’s talk about consumer goods. There is a tendency to think that things were always better in the past — the good old days, as people say. But is this true? Certainly today’s computers and mobile phones are better than any time in history. Despite the nostalgia for film, digital is better in most respects.
It’s not just the performance of these products, the newest products are physically better built than in the past . Apple has always made high quality, high design computers but the current glass and aluminum products are light years ahead of the plastic computers from the 80s and 90s. I have a prosumer Canon film SLR from the early 90s the EOS A2, it’s made of cheap plastic. The equivalent Canon 7D is water-resistant and made from robust magnesium.
You still think the old stuff is better? Look at the just announced Leica T, with its body machined out of a solid block of aluminum. There’s never been a camera built like this. Incidentally, the Apple MacBook Pros and the MacPro desktop are built in a similar way.
For a segment of the population, cheap, no matter how inexpensive is no longer desirable. Perhaps the age of mass production, to produce goods cheaper and cheaper, has finally hit rock bottom. People want quality.
Companies also realize that creating things cheaper is a death spiral. There is a limit to how inexpensive you can make something and there is no customer loyalty for cheaply made products — people just move on to the next company with lower prices.
I believe, we are moving into a golden age for quality. Better but more expensive products. Companies, however, will serve a smaller but more discriminating subset. Companies catering to the low-end, mass market might still survive but I don’t think they will flourish. This is not a rich or poor issue. Each person will decide what’s important for them and spend accordingly. I, for example, have a modest car and I don’t spend a lot on food but I spend a lot more money on cameras and electronics. Others might have designer clothes and dine out in fancy restaurants but choose to have modestly priced gadgets.
The age of one size fits all, cheaply made products is coming to an end. Good riddance.
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