The emergence of the socially successful “winder” has not gone unnoticed by major corporations, with a range of products, from mobile phones to pre-prepared sandwiches, being marketed towards this trend.
If the 1980s was the decade of the yuppie, then the 2010s could be the decennium of the “winder.” Gone is the era when high-earning narcissists looked to flaunt their wealth with the flashiest goods available, paying little heed to functionality. The social success of today, or “winder” (derived from “soft-” or “windy-winner”) is still a keen consumer, but places much greater emphasis on the environmental, ethical and social impact of that consumption. But has anyone truly tapped the potential of this consumer group to date?
It could be argued that the biggest selling consumer electronics device of the last decade, Apple’s iPhone, is at least partly geared towards the winder. First and foremost its hefty price tag means it is a gadget that only the reasonably wealthy can afford. But more than that, it is a combination of a smartphone (i.e. a mobile phone with computing capabilities) and a fashion accessory which consumers have been willing to camp outside stores for several days in order to purchase. Indeed the iPhone is the must-have technical accessory of the modern fashion-conscious. Apple CEO Steve Jobs summarized the iconic status of the product, saying his company had “reinvented the telephone.”
Its sleek design and touchscreen operation appeals to techies and novices alike, but attracts those from both groups with a distinct sense of style. It is also aimed at those with extremely busy lives, perhaps juggling a high-pressure job with family commitments. While the yuppie of the 1980s was largely interested in individual pursuits outside his or her professional life, the socially successful winder of today is highly likely to have other people to care for other than himself. And Apple has promoted this versatility of the iPhone as one of its key selling points, showing that a busy parent can check stock prices whilst simultaneously taking photographs of his children at soccer practice, or a socialite professional can keep up to date with work emails whilst also locating a bar for the evening’s festivities. Having celebrities photographed with the device in their grip can’t harm the iPhone’s appeal to the young, socially successful set either.
Another brand which has capitalized on the winder trend is Swedish furniture group IKEA. The world’s biggest furniture retailer stocks all kinds of homewares, stylish and yet affordable, with a focus on “democratic design” where the design and manufacturing processes are amalgamated, and environmental design, which is publicized to attracted the environmentally-conscious winder. Furthermore it is for the social success who is handy with a screwdriver: the majority of its products are flat-packed and require self-assembly.
The company is also involved in several charitable initiatives, including supporting educational institutions, the American Forests campaign and partnerships with UNICEF and Save the Children. In addition to its environmental initiatives, such as not providing disposable plastic bags and stocking products made from recycled waste materials, IKEA also invests directly to benefit the environment though its $70 million alternative energy venture capital fund GreenTech.
In the fashion world, U.S. clothing chain American Apparel might reasonably figure in the winder’s list of favorite stores. Stylistically, the shop offers basic, minimalist garments, including t-shirts, denim and vintage wear, also recently expanding into makeup. This could appeal to the socially successful person who wishes to convey a youthful, hip image.
But more importantly for the winder than the products themselves, is the company’s stance on a number of social and economic issues, which sets it apart from most rival clothing retailers, and which it promotes as a key selling point to draw the trade of those who consider such values an important factor in where they buy their clothes from.
One of American Apparel’s most unusual characteristics is its “sweatshop free” labor policy. While most U.S. clothing retailers rely largely on Chinese manufacturing, American Apparel’s entire production takes place at its downtown Los Angeles factory. Paying its workers an average of $12 per hour, many times what their counterparts in China earn, the company claims to have the “best-paid apparel workers in the world”. This commitment to its native workforce earned American Apparel a visit from L.A. mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in 2008.
However, American Apparel’s magnetism for winders goes beyond the way it looks after its staff. The firm has run a campaign backing the “Legalize LA” movement, an operation to encourage immigration reform. Furthermore it has recently publicly supported the legalization of same-sex marriages in California. Through marketing itself as a caring and yet highly successful firm, American Apparel has sought to reach the style conscious yet politically aware winder.
And where might the winder go to eat at lunchtime? Perhaps at Pret A Manger. The sandwich retailer, based in London, England (despite the French-sounding name), but also with stores in the U.S. and Hong Kong, has all the attributes which suit the profile of a winder. According to the company, all sandwiches are made from natural ingredients and prepared on the premises on the day of purchase, unlike rival sandwich stores, where products are often made off-site and often displayed for several days. Moreover, at the end of each day all unsold products are donated to charities which then distribute them amongst the homeless populations of the cities in which the stores operate.
Pret A Manger targets the exact space in the market where the winder resides, offering a healthy, good quality, fairly trendy and up-market alternative to traditional fast food chains, where customers can also rest assured that unsold sandwiches go to a good cause at the end of the day.
In addition to its passion for fresh natural food and support for the homeless with products which otherwise would be wasted, Pret A Manger is also highly commercially successful. So much so that a controlling stake in the company was sold to private equity house Bridgepoint Capital in 2008 in a $545 million deal. At the time of the acquisition Bridgepoint partner Guy Weldon summed up Pret’s attraction for today’s winder, saying the company was “well placed to capitalize on food and consumer lifestyle changes driven by the trend for premium healthy eating.”
The winder is a social group with obvious financial clout, and a number of companies have already aimed products at this growing band of consumers. However, there still remains scope to further tap this power of the winder.