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After coming up for air following the 2006 publication of his book “Treasure Hunt,” Michael Silverstein, a senior partner and managing director at Boston Consulting Group, has dived into his next effort — “The Female Economy: What Women Want,” a global outlook to be published by HarperCollins next September. Consumer behavior expert Silverstein and co-author Katharine Sayre anticipate a world in 2028 where American women will earn more on average than their male counterparts, boosted by rapidly rising levels of education. As a result, he foresees women demanding more of the things they purchase.
WWD: With women focused on the traditional challenges of managing their finances, households and time, how much is going to be changing in the way they shop and spend money?
Michael Silverstein: I think it’s a huge change in the total dollars in their hands. In the next five years, we estimate women will generate an increase in spending globally of $700 billion.
I would not categorize all of their top challenges as traditional concerns. Time I would characterize as a total paradigm shift. Job pressure is a huge one. Women are looking for agents of convenience, both in products and services; things they can count on in terms of time and convenience.
Between 66 and 70 percent of women believe they’ll be better off five years from now.
WWD: How is it that this optimism exists despite the downturn in the U.S. economy this year?
M.S.: They are optimistic about themselves. They are not optimistic about the economy. My hypothesis is they feel they can control their own space, but not the world.
WWD: You cite financial services, health care and technology/electronics as industries women identify as doing the worst job meeting their needs. How satisfied are they with the fashion business, particularly apparel?
M.S.: Apparel is not one of the categories where there is a huge amount of dissatisfaction. The level is about half the level of [the dissatisfaction with] financial services.
WWD: What information will “The Female Economy” include besides the responses of the 11,000 women who have taken your survey online at womenspeakworldwide.com?
M.S.: We will do a number of individual interviews with consumers and women leaders and profile companies, in addition to continuing the online surveys. We will do the survey for the next 10 years, with annual updates.
WWD: Have there been any big surprises in your findings for the book?
M.S.: The biggest surprise has been some of the products and services [women] want to buy — how it varies at different life stages. Married, working women with young children have a very tough life, including 30 hours a week of housework. There are tight budgets and limited amounts of time. They are looking for someone who can put their arms around them and say, “I can help you.”
Massage Envy is a franchise massage place for the masses. For $57, you can get a 90-minute massage.
That’s a lot better than what you’d pay in New York — right? [He laughs.]