💬 Friday discussion: barbells or niches
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Gap will close all its stores across the UK and Ireland and move online only. It struck me as another example of an increasing trend that has been apparent in many markets for at least 15 years: the vanishing middle, or the barbellification of markets.
This suggests there is room at the bottom end for bargain basics and at the top end for the bespoke and curated but not a lot of room in the middle. The end of the “mass” as it were. EV member, Pascale Finette calls it “Hourglass Economics.”
Annalee Bloomfield pointed me to a similar trend in the travel industry:
At your two-star hotel, expectations are relatively low but the predictability and comfort of the place finds ways to exceed your expectations. The availability of morning coffee and cleanliness is what you’re there for; you don’t expect much and they deliver just that. It’s a beautiful arrangement. Meanwhile, five-star hotels have a reputation to uphold. The rooms border on price-gouging but the places remind you that travel can be effortless.
So I wanted to explore the possible ramifications of this shift. The middle doesn’t seem to have a place anymore: not in retail, not in travel. It is even true in media. But is it necessarily just a simple barbell or hourglass? Or is there room for a different analysis: perhaps the arrival of the niche or multiple niches? Which other markets are experiencing this barbell? And how might they develop?
Love your thoughts,
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Thanks to EV.Do members, Annalee and Pascale, for helping think through this. Annual premium members of Exponential View can apply to join the EV.Do community too!