Where the Money Is (and the Spending, Too)

Marketers looking for a well-heeled (albeit very small) market couldn’t do better than Los Alamos, N.M. It’s the nation’s locale with the highest median household “effective buying income” (EBI) — often referred to as “disposable” or “after-tax” income. That’s one tidbit from the 2008 Survey of Buying Power and Media Markets, published by Sales & Marketing Management. (Nielsen Co. is the parent company of Sales & Marketing Management as well as of Adweek.) Los Alamos has a median household EBI of $77,176, putting it comfortably ahead of second-place San Jose/Sunnyvale/Santa Clara, Calif. ($67,144). The rock-bottom market in this category is Rio Grande City/Roma, Texas, where the median household EBI is $19,861.

These rankings break the country into Core Based Statistical Areas, a designation devised by the federal government that includes “micropolitan” as well as “metropolitan” areas. (The metros have at least one urban area with 50,000-plus residents, while the micros have at least one urban area with 10,000-49,999 souls.) Los Alamos is a micro. Incidentally, the report doesn’t foresee Los Alamos plunging into impoverishment anytime soon. Its five-year projection of median household EBI predicts that this micro area will remain at No. 1 in the rankings by CBSA, with a healthy figure of $85,466.

The report also ranked U.S. media markets (known in the trade as “designated market areas,” or DMAs) by their median household disposable income. San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose, Calif., stood atop this list, with median household EBI of $58,944. Filling out the top five: Washington, D.C. (which includes Hagerstown, Md.), at $58,562; Anchorage, Alaska, at $53,084; Juneau, Alaska, at $51,198; and Boston (which includes Manchester, N.H.), at $50,932. Bringing up the rear on this roster, at No. 210, is Harlingen/Weslaco/Brownsville/McAllen, Texas ($26,097). In the five-year projection by DMA, Washington, D.C., is expected to slip past San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose (at $66,617 vs. $64,768).

Of course, a very rich but very small community is of limited interest to most marketers. Another of the 2008 Survey of Buying Power and Media Markets charts assembles a ranking of DMAs by the number of households they have with an EBI of $150,000 or more. Helped along by its sheer size, the New York media market took the top spot on this list, with 461,772 of its households boasting an EBI of $150,000 or better. Completing the top five in this category: Los Angeles (270,485), San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose (200,122), Washington, D.C. (163,609) and Chicago (152,107). The media market with the fewest households at this income level: Glendive, Mont., with a grand total of 31. A high-end marketer could go around and shake hands with every one of them in the course of a morning. The U.S. as a whole has nearly 3.7 million such households.

The report also ranked locales by inhabitants’ median age. In the media-market standings, Alpena, Mich., has the oldest population, with a median age of 45.2, narrowly edging the aforementioned Glendive, where the median age is 45. In rankings by CBSA, Florida communities dominate the top of the list, with Punta Gorda at No. 1 (median age: 51.7) and Homosassa Springs the runner-up (49.9). The youngest CBSA is Rexburg, Idaho, with a median age of 22.8. The youngest DMA is Laredo, Texas, with a tender median age of 26.6.

In yet another section of the voluminous report, media markets are ranked by an estimate of 2008 sales at food and beverage stores. Naturally, sheer market size counts for a lot here. Thus, the New York DMA takes the top spot, with sales of some $53.4 billion at such stores, vs. $36.5 billion for second-place Los Angeles. Indeed, it’s striking to see how steeply the numbers fall off as one goes down the list. At No. 10 in these rankings, Denver barely manages one-fifth of the sales (at $10.8 billion) that the New York market records.

The pattern is somewhat different when the report looks at estimated 2008 total retail sales by DMA. With sales of $331.1 billion, New York is again at the top of the list, but second-place Los Angeles isn’t all that far behind ($292.8 billion). But there is a steep drop-off to third-place Chicago ($155.2 billion), which comes in slightly ahead of fourth-ranked Philadelphia ($143.1 billion). The Boston DMA ($118.7 billion) completes the top five.