Farming photoThe New York Times has coined a new consumer group worthy of marketers attention. "Oppies" — short for 'organic professionals'— value the spiritual over the material. Former yuppies who have rejected conspicuous consumption to embrace earth-friendly living, Oppies purchase 'eco-friendly' or 'green' products, and move to places where the conversations turn to issues of 'sustainability' and 'buying locally.'

The consumer clout of this psychographic segment is significant. According to New York Times writer Alex Williams, Oppies have not entirely abandoned the good life. "They are choosing to downshift their lives, but to do so, ideally in, say, a spiffy new Ford Escape hybrid," said Williams. The circulation of Organic Style magazine has nearly doubled to 750,000 in three years. Sales of organic food in the United States have boomed, growing between 17 and 21 percent each year from 1997 through last year, compared with increases of 2 to 4 percent for total food sales over the same period, according to the Organic Trade Association. Sales of nonfood organic products grew almost 20% last year.

No doubt spas will benefit from this growing market. Less likely to be impressed by "brass, glass, and marble" this group will forgo luxury for superlative experiences. Spas interested in targeting Oppies should take the steps towards "green" development and operations, and make it part of their marketing message.