consumerism

   The past thirty years have witnessed a radical modification of Spain's consumer structure. The steady growth of per capita income since the 1950s has increased the consumption of products other than basics such as food or clothing. In addition, the evolution of Spanish society since the transition to democracy has widened the range of Spanish consumer needs.
   The consumer society in Spain dates from the 1960s, when economic development starts to take effect after the Stabilization Plan. Industrial development, together with the beginnings of urban modernization, favoured the introduction of consumer goods such as cars, television sets and domestic appliances. The trend towards mass consumerism became general in the 1970s, producing a proportional increase in expenditure on services and non-essential goods. During the 1980s, Spain's consumer habits came more into line with those of western European countries, with greater priority being given to spending on transport, communications, leisure, culture and services.
   Purchasing decisions are conditioned by a series of factors connected with the consumer structure of Spanish households. The decrease in the rate of population growth since 1985, and the progressive ageing of the population, have meant that increasing attention is paid to what is referred to in Spain as the tercera edad (pensioners). Manufacturers" marketing strategies have changed accordingly towards promoting health foods and services for this clientele. Moreover, there has been an increase in the number of smaller households, by reason of, for instance, cohabitation and one-parent families. The decrease in marriage and birth rates, and the increasing frequency of divorce (see also marriage and divorce), have fragmented traditional households, with larger numbers of households being inhabited by a smaller number of people. In addition, the increasing incorporation of women into the workforce has changed traditional family roles, which have become more homogeneous and democratic, with more women behaving as consumers of financial services and more men as consumers of health food and beauty products. Last but not least, the stability of consumers" purchasing power has been affected by inflation. Periods of economic recession have noticeably caused consumers to look for what are called marcas blandas (cheaper brands imitating better ones), sacrificing the quality and prestige features of products. Several consumer tendencies may be identified in contemporary Spanish society. The increased importance of the household as a consumption unit has stimulated new services and products for the home. The increase in free time due to unemployment and the progressive ageing of the population, accompanied by a generalized search for happiness, self-fulfilment and enjoyment of free time, has triggered the expansion of the leisure sector. The protection of consumers" rights has been increased by the creation of a legislative code and an arbitration system. The search for greater comfort and convenience has meant that when purchasing, for instance, appliances or pre-cooked food, consumers give a higher priority to userfriendliness, ergonomics, synergy or interactivity. The continuing importance of health and beauty issues has produced a partial abandonment of traditional foods in search of more balanced diets, and the expansion of markets related to health clubs and beauty products. The increasing prominence accorded to environmental issues has affected the images projected by companies and their marketing strategies. Underlying all these factors is the development of consumer education, which favours a more informed choice.
   See also: demographic indicators; economy; food and drink; Francoist culture; legal system; sport and leisure; standard of living
   Further reading
   - de Miguel, A. (1994) La Sociedad Española 199394. Informe Sociológico de la Universidad Complutense, Madrid: Alianza Editorial (a sociological study of Spanish society, analysing Spaniards" character and habits).
   - Graham, H. and Labanyi, J. (eds) (1995) Spanish Cultural Studies: An Introduction, Oxford: Oxford University Press (a collection of essays on different contemporary cultural issues; section 2 of Part III deals with consumerism, mass culture and developmentalism in Spain, during the 1960–75 period).
   - Schubert, A. (1990) A Social History of Modern Spain, London: Routledge (pp. 256–64 provide an analysis of the socio-political and economic changes of the Franco regime and the subsequent return of democracy).
   GEMMA BELMONTE TALERO

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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