Consumer "Fads" That Haven't Faded

By Tisa Silver | January 20, 2010 AAA

Whether it is skinny jeans and asymmetric haircuts or stuffed animals and comfortable but unattractive shoes, fads are always coming and going. Some fads, however, don't seem to go anywhere. Here are some unique products that were assumed to be a passing fancy, but stuck around anyway. (You can use fads to help your investing, read Using Consumer Spending As A Market Indicator.)

  • Bottled Water
    When the first cases of bottled water hit supermarket shelves, many people wondered why they should pay for something they have always gotten for free. Apparently, the package makes all the difference. In 2006, the global bottled water market was valued at approximately $60.9 billion. By 2011, the market is expected to grow to $86.4 billion.

  • Pet Clothing and Accessories
    Many people took dog fashion for a joke, but retailers are the ones laughing all the way to the bank. Approximately 62% of all American households own a pet, and 77.5 million of those pets are dogs. In 2008, pet-related spending was approximately $43.4 billion. Right behind pet food, dog supplies and accessories accounted for the largest portion of sales dollars associated with pets.

  • Energy Drinks
    Energy drinks are designed to give their consumers a temporary boost, and they've created a permanent position for themselves in the drink market. Since the 1990s, the now-popular drinks have grown to provide a massive, lasting boost to the bottom lines of many drink manufacturers. Some critics initially dismissed energy drinks because of their main ingredients (sugar and caffeine) and lack of mainstream appeal. Granted, people may not be sipping on energy drinks around their dinner tables, but sales in bars, restaurants and gas stations more than pick up the slack. The domestic market for energy drinks is expected to exceed $9 billion by 2011.

  • Tickle Me Elmo
    This Sesame Street character had been reaching kids in living rooms everywhere via the television for years. In 1996, Mattel released a doll version of the lovable Muppet. When squeezed repeatedly, Tickle Me Elmo would shake and laugh. Since then, several editions of the popular doll have remained on the wish lists of children nationwide. Last year, the original Tickle Me Elmo was re-released. (Hit the mall and shop for future investments. Read Analyzing Retail Stocks.)

  • Harry Potter
    The first book in this seven part series, "Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone" was originally published in Britain in 1997. Soon after, its name was altered for release in the United States and the rest is history. Several of the books were adapted into box office record-breaking movies, and the series has also been translated into over 60 different languages. Once dubbed a fad, the tales of "the boy who lived" turned J.K. Rowling into the first person to become a billionaire by writing books.

  • "LIVESTRONG"-Type Bracelets
    These unusually thick rubber bands picked up momentum in 2004, when Lance Armstrong began sporting the bright yellow "LIVESTRONG" bracelet on his wrist. Armstrong's bracelets drew attention to a good cause, and other groups quickly latched on to this silicone phenomenon. These bracelets are cheap, easy to customize and they don't appear to be going away any time soon.

  • Diets
    Every fad diet offers a supposedly new solution to deal with age old problem of wanting to lose weight. In recent years, some of the most popular diets have included the Atkins Diet, the South Beach Diet and the Lemonade Diet. Each diet may follow a boom and bust cycle, but the field of products or plans offering quicker than usual weight loss always seems to have customers.

Nothing is certain in the world of fads other than the fact that new ones are born every day. For each one that emerges, another awaits to take its place. Even for the fads that have managed to achieve a longer than average shelf life, the clock is ticking. (Learn more in Make Money With The Consumer Cyclical And Staple Indicator.)

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