Demos on Wall Street

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By following the buying habits of today's consumers, investors can use demographic shifts to predict the spending patterns of tomorrow's shoppers.

Remember the days of long-term investing? In today's era of day traders and dot-com junkies, taking the long view appears to be out of vogue.

But a growing number of Wall Street analysts are trying to bring it back in style. As Contributing Editor Michael J. Weiss reports in this month's cover story, some investment professionals are poring over a different set of numbers for their financial tips. In addition to studying earnings reports and the like, the pros are turning to demographics to ferret out hot stocks for the future - and they're even naming names. These money managers have identified specific companies they expect to grow based on long-term population trends.

Investors may be heeding demographics, but it appears marketers necessarily aren't. In our feature story on unmarried couples, Associate Editor Rebecca Gardyn writes about a growing segment of the population that is virtually ignored by industry. Today, only 26 percent of all U.S. households fit the traditional definition of family: married with kids. Yet, despite the growth in the "happily unmarried" market, businesses have been slow to reach out to these consumers. As a result, when cohabiting couples need legal or financial advice, for example, they've turned to professionals who cater to the gay and lesbian community, Gardyn reports.

Yet, it's not only the make-up of the family that's changing. Family traditions are changing as well, as Contributing Editor Alison Stein Wellner points out in our story on holiday shopping. Every day can be a holiday for marketers who know how to target the rising number of foreign-born Americans, Wellner writes. As our nation grows more diverse, the boundaries of the "holiday season" will blur, creating new opportunities for savvy marketers. Something to think about as you get ready for the New Year. May it be a prosperous one.

- In "Head Trips" (Databasics, October 2000) SRI Consulting's VALS system was misidentified. The acronym stands for Values and Lifestyles Survey. It is a psychographic segmentation system which sorts individuals into eight distinct groups, based on responses to a questionnaire. It does not segment consumers by geographic location.

- In our story "Radio-Active" (Media Channels, October 2000) some data from Arbitron's "Kids and Tweens Listening Study" was misreported. The article should have stated that 62 percent of the audience of the Radio Disney station in Minneapolis-St. Paul, is composed of children aged 6 to 8; 38 percent of that audience is made up of children aged 9 to 11. And of children aged 6 to 11 surveyed, who listen to the Top 40 Station in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, 72 percent are between the ages of 9 and 11, while 28 percent are aged 6 to 8.

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