Middle-class families in smaller cities and towns with solid blue-collar jobs
Concentrated in Great Lakes towns and industrial cities, Blue Collar Comfort resemble a blue- collar version of the American dream. Its households are mostly filled with married couples in their 40s and 50s with older children - and about a quarter of the homes are shared with young adults. Their educational levels are about average, and the labor force is diversified, although the highest concentration works in well-paying, blue-collar jobs. This segment also has one of the highest rates in the nation for union members. The multiple earners help maintain their older homes on large lots, and there’s plenty of disposable income left over to support comfortable, mid-scale lifestyles.
Blue Collar Comfort enjoy small-town, family-centered lifestyles. On a Friday night, they like sitting with friends while playing cards and board games. If they go out, it’s typically to a movie, bar or casual restaurant that serves country-style cuisine. They can afford to travel, and they like taking cruises and vacations to Mexico and Caribbean islands. When they take an overnight trip to a nearby state, they typically check in at economy hotels like Travelodge and Red Roof Inn.
Perhaps surprisingly, these small-town consumers love to shop. They like the latest consumer electronics and new fashions, though they’re also value-conscious and regularly hold out for a sale before hitting a mall. They patronize discount clubs and mid-market retailers - JCPenney, Hallmark and BJ’s Wholesale Club are all favorites - and they buy almost every kind of merchandise sold in a catalog. Although these consumers would like to gain some status recognition by owning a flashy imported car, they usually settle for a rugged truck or van that’s made in the USA.
With most adults lacking a college degree, Blue Collar Comfort tend to be a traditional segment when it comes to media. These folks often read their local newspapers from cover to cover, and listen to the radio each day for the weather report as well as old-fashioned country and head- banging album rock. They go online less than the average, typically for email or travel planning. However, they will rearrange their schedules to watch TV programs; they like to watch game shows, NFL games and sitcoms as a family. When the commercials come on, they stay tuned for the silly ones.
This lifestyle segment is on an even keel and politically centered. They believe in the primacy of the family and like spending time with close friends. The issues that they care about are all over the ideological map; at the ballot box, they vote Republican, Democrat or Independent almost equally. They mostly eat what they want and don’t care about the consequences of calories, sugar or fatty foods. Not overly ambitious, they typically care little about striving for a promotion at work. In their towns, where so many factory jobs have disappeared in recent years, Blue Collar Comfort are just happy to have a decent-paying job.
A haven for middle-class blue-collar workers, Blue Collar Comfort are white, married couples with kids living in smaller cities and towns. Most of the household heads are between 35 and 50. Three-quarters of the households contain children; nearly a quarter still have young adults living at home. The educational achievement here is about average: three-quarters are either high school graduates or have some college education. Most Blue Collar Comfort work at blue-collar jobs in transportation, communications, utilities and manufacturing.
Blue Collar Comfort typically live in chain link-fence suburbs built a half-century ago. Nearly all are homeowners of single-family homes, concentrated in older Midwestern and Northeastern factory communities that have undergone wrenching change. In their small towns and cities, housing prices are depressed, and the streets are lined with old trucks and vans driven by the men working construction. Blue Collar Comfort have watched as their blue-collar neighborhoods began to show the unmistakable signs of aging: most have lived at the same address for more than 15 years.
Blue Collar Comfort members live quiet, comfortable lives. They enjoy leisure activities like playing cards and board games as well as outdoor pursuits such as swimming, canoeing and jet skiing. When they go out, it’s often to a bar, cinema, antique show or home-style restaurant like Bob Evans, Friendly’s or Old Country Buffet. Their lifestyle hardly qualifies as flashy. For the grown-ups, a big date is going to a concert; for their older children, it’s a trip to a theme park.
These middle-class households like to travel. They take cruises, particularly to the Bahamas and other Caribbean destinations. They like taking car and train trips to a dozen different states, mostly in the Midwest and South, and they will also fly to Canada, Bermuda, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. A Travelodge or Red Roof Inn suits them just fine when they’re on the road.
Blue Collar Comfort find a strong joy in consumption. They like new fashions, stores and gadgets, and they buy nearly anything that’s sold by mail. However, because of their mid-scale incomes, they also are value-conscious and take pride in being informed consumers. Their favorite stores are a mix of mid-market mall retailers and discount chains: JCPenney, Kohl’s, BJ’s Wholesale Club and Payless Shoe Source. They don’t limit their shopping to any one store, though, and they sometimes hold out for a sale. With young children in some of the homes, it’s no surprise that members of this segment also frequent stores such as Toys R Us and purchase dolls, books and other children’s toys and games.
Blue Collar Comfort live in “buy American” country, especially when it comes to vehicles. Members say they like to drive luxury cars, although they’re more likely to buy vans, pickup trucks and inexpensive subcompacts. These motorists are okay with buying used vehicles, and with the high concentration of young adults at home, nearly three-quarters of households own three or more vehicles. Most of the nameplates read Ford, Chevrolet, Dodge and Chrysler.
Media traditionalists, Blue Collar Comfort read a daily paper (often from cover to cover, looking for local news), listen to the radio (especially bluegrass, country and album-oriented rock stations), and watch TV as much as the average. They often arrange their schedules in order to see favorite programs and watch shows together with their kids, typically game shows, sitcoms and dramas. Among their favorite cable channels are AMC, the History Channel, ABC Family and the Food Network. Their highest-rated TV show: “Seinfeld” reruns.
Blue Collar Comfort like their world balanced and ordered. They enjoy their families, prefer to work for a company that acts ethically and maintain a close circle of friends. They’re middle-of- the-roaders on social issues and they describe themselves as swing voters who are easily swayed by others. They identify themselves as Democrat, Republican and Independent nearly equally.
Blue Collar Comfort are open-minded and make friends easily. They enjoy people from all backgrounds and they like working as part of a team. However, they no longer view their work as the ticket to the American dream. They aren’t particularly enthusiastic about their jobs but are happy to be employed. They don’t spend a lot of time trying to climb the corporate ladder, and they wouldn’t want the headaches of starting their own business.
These Americans are laid-back about their health and not too concerned about their diet or exercise. They admit that they eat foods regardless of the calories. They like to try new recipes and don’t consider their nutritional value. They’re more likely to use a coupon in the grocery store than read the label on a package. They like to try new foods - the sweeter and spicier, the better.
Most households in Blue Collar Comfort earn more than $72,000 from a mix of blue-collar and service-sector jobs. They get help making ends meet thanks to a number of debit and credit cards, which they use for everyday expenses, clothing and gas. These consumers are highly leveraged and have mortgages, car loans and personal loans more than the average.
Many Blue Collar Comfort claim that they know nothing about investments, yet they’ve begun building a nest egg, and they buy stocks, mutual funds and savings bonds. They make a strong market for insurance products to protect what they have, though they tend to have below- average levels of health and life insurance. Their main aim is to teach their kids to be careful with their money - as they are - but they still prefer to leave the major financial planning to professionals.
Blue Collar Comfort are modest Internet users. The adults in this segment go online for email, travel planning and auctions, while their children use the Internet to listen to music, download games and check out sports scores. Although they’re not early adopters - they only use cell phones for talking - they do access the Internet using high-speed modems and buy computer accessories like DVD burners, joysticks and speakers. Most households are relatively light online surfers, though they do frequent a number of Websites, including travelocity.com, weightwatchers.com, classmates.com, weatherbug.com and addictinggames.com. Unlike some of their peers, they state that the Internet has had no impact of their lives.