MONTHLY BAROMETER – WELLNESS EDITION

For the second winter in a row, the success of a basic coat has gone viral. The Orolay puffer jacket, produced in China and sold (mainly) on Amazon for about $130, competed with premium brands, such as Canada Goose, Moncler and Fusalp, priced at exponentially more than that amount.

So what? (1) It reveals the growing disruptive power of the Amazon platform, which now allows sellers worldwide to store products in its warehouses, enabling them to get market share fast and thus to threaten the incumbents; (2) It may become fashionable to spend less.

The “Amazon coat tale” could well be the canary in the coal mine for the luxury industry: In a world beset by growing environmental and societal problems, consuming less conspicuously and less expensive things may become le must.

It’s worth considering whether a similar phenomenon might happen with wellness. If it does, it will entail dramatic financial consequences for many companies that ride the wellness wave at only the very high-end. Let us consider one hypothetical example: At the moment, many people pay large amounts to ride or exercise on costly equipment inside. What if, en masse, they suddenly decided the same beneficial effects were accessible by just going for a walk (or run) outside or doing some push-ups in their living room?

Scientific studies have shown again and again that paying isn’t a prerequisite to enjoy the benefits of physical exercise. Some segments of the wellness industry: beware of the mounting backlash against conspicuous consumption. Sooner than many realize, forest bathing/Shinrin-yoku or just a walk in nature may become more fashionable than spending hundreds of dollars in boutique fitness classes. The “problem” for the industry—this solution is free.

The consequences and pertinence of the point above may be amplified by the ever-increasing relevance of nature—a free good that almost everybody can enjoy and an inexhaustible source of wellbeing. Over the coming months, new books (most notably Earth Emotions: New Words for a New World by Glenn Albrecht and The Hidden Magic of Forest Bathing by Julia Plevin) will emphasize the critical importance of reconnecting with nature.

Ample academic research has shown that disconnecting from nature is bad for our mental health; but now, pioneering research is also showing that just being in nature brings tangible physical benefits, such as boosting immune system health and even cancer prevention. Perhaps the new challenge for the wellness sector is how best it can provide a pathway back to nature for its clients.

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