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Consumer society

Middle class scrimp week- days, splurge on weekends

Published lördag 22 oktober 2011 kl 13.05
Champagne sales were up 15 percent during the third quarter compared to last year. Photo: Jessica Gow/Scanpix

The Swedish middle class eschew mid-priced products, opting instead to interchange low-priced wares with luxurious ones, TT news agency reports. According to Sofia Ulver-Sneistrup, a researcher at Lund, If you look at typical middle class Swedes – those who earn a decent salary, live okay and generally have a good living standard – they shop at Lidl during the week and then splurge at Östermalm’s market hall on weekends. “These are the same people, not two different classes,” she says.

According to Ulver-Sneistrup, the class that has earned a really strong position in society is the mid-middle class, but that individuals in that group are polarized. She says the pattern is most clearly illustrated in tourism where backpacking trips culminate with a stay at a luxury hotel. Sacrifices are made to also accommodate luxury on a middle-class salary.

“People can go to Lidl and Willys and shop inexpensively without feeling ashamed. It’s totally okay. But then they sure know how to live it up. The middle class is expected to enjoy a little luxury but then it’s completely acceptable for them live a little more simply the rest of the time.”  

This is a new phenomenon. Before, those who paid for luxury were not the same as those who bought low-priced products. But during the past 10 years different lifestyles have become much more transparent, and just like it has always been, when something becomes visible people become more attracted to it, says Ulver-Sneistrup.  

“There is a sense of entitlement to these things. Otherwise, you’re not part of consumer society. You’re not worth anything if you can’t consume with the best of them,” she says.

Of course there’s a limit to what the average person thinks is reasonable luxury consumption. Maybe the line is drawn somewhere around being able to afford at least one Louis Vuitton bag in a lifetime and being able to drink champagne often.

Purchasing trends at Systembolaget support this picture. During the third quarter this year champagne sales were up 15 percent, compared with the same period last year. At the same time, the drink that grew most in sales was the really cheap beer Swedish lager beer, Lennart Agén, a spokesperson for Systembolaget told TT.

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