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    The Luxury Boom

    By Jemma
    Jun 15, '20 6:31 AM EST

    Lockdown Britain splurges on ‘non-essential’ goods

    New hot tub installation with Millboard’s Enhanced Grain

    Recent research conducted by YouGov demonstrated that three-quarters of Brits are spending on ‘non-essential’ items through lockdown. Indulgent foods, luxury beauty brands and high-end homeware are seeing the biggest increases in consumer engagement, leading to Forbes naming this period the ‘comfort economy’.

    With the nation staying at home and with bad news being transmitted from every platform, the UK has taken to self-prescribed retail therapy to alleviate the stress of COVID-19.

    Perhaps unsurprisingly, food and drink has performed strongly through this period, with data from ONS showing that March was the strongest month ever recorded for food stores. However, whereas many in the industry predicted surges in basics, we’ve also seen that ‘treat’ foods such as pizza, crisps and sugary cereals have enjoyed marked increases in sales, and consumers have also demonstrated a return to trusted brands. Cadbury’s Dairy Milk and Smirnoff’s Red Vodka, for example, were two of March’s best-selling items.

    Alcohol sales have increased, and The Harris Poll found 1 in 5 consumers are drinking more during the pandemic, but BizJournal writes that this isn’t simply ‘stress drinking’ but actually an illustration of the broader trend for self-indulgence. They report that cocktail shakers are selling out all over the country as furloughed workers look to take up new hobbies and learn new skills.

    This is also reflected in Ipsos Mori’s research that shows that viewers are watching more ‘doing’ content too — teaching themselves how to cook, bake or craft.

    Creating spaces to work, rest and play

    The home and garden have been major centres of spending activity too. And, reflecting the rest of the datasets, it isn’t just the big names cashing in. Homeware retailers are seeing sales double as the nation repeats a significant trend from the 2008 recession — ‘improve, don’t move’. Boutique outlet Wolf and Badger, for example, has reported a 43% increase in homeware sales. ‘We are seeing some of our lifestyle products getting a bit more pick-up than they would have normally received. People’s daily schedules have changed dramatically, and they are doing different things with their days,’ explains George Graham, CEO and co-founder.

    Lockdown has also coincided with an extended spell of summery weather, meaning that Brits have extended their home improvements to their outside spaces too. British company PaymentSense analysed millions of transactions across the country and discovered a post-lockdown jump of 39% in sales across all gardening paraphernalia.

    This increase again demonstrates the need to prioritise ‘living well’ over counting the pennies, as much of the increase is made up of significant leisure purchases. Hot tub and home spa manufactures have had to introduce queueing systems to their websites to cope with demand, and many homeowners are finding that lock-down has provided them with the time to finally create their dream space. Caroline Birdsall, Marketing Manager of premium decking manufacturer Millboard, states that, ‘we’ve heard a lot from our clients about how transformative this period has been. People working from home don’t want to be stuck inside, so they’ve created beautiful, multi-purpose spaces for working and playing outdoors. We’ve noticed a big increase in sales of our boards, particularly those that refer to classic design.’

    This same pivot towards ’classics’ has also been seen in the clothing sector. Emily Gordon-Smith, Director of Consumer Product at Stylus, reports that, ‘We have talked about seasonless for a long time and now see this trend really coming into its own.’ Sales of good quality, ‘made to last’ basics are outstripping throwaway ‘one season only’ pieces, and consumers are keeping retailers on their toes.

    Michael Thompson, CEO of lingerie brand Pour Moi, states that romantic lingerie set sales are usually decreased at this time of year in favour of swimwear. However, this year, the established pattern has reversed dramatically with lingerie sales up by 30%. Thompson writes that, ‘People are looking both for something cocooning and comfortable, and they’re also looking for something for a ’date night’ in. Couples are trying to stay connected: making an effort and dressing up for date night. We’re really trying to work with our factories to pull forward sexy and sport, and pushing back on the swim.’

    Coffees and commutes slashed

    With the daily spend of travelling to and from the office on pause, and high-street lunches cancelled for the time being, Brits are spending their cash saved from these expenses on little luxuries. Sales of luxury lipsticks and other items of beauty paraphernalia are exploding. Kassi Emadi, the founder of premium lifestyle brand Nuddy, reported a sales lift of 700% by March alone. He stated that, ‘now, more than ever, consumers are concerned with not only their physical health, but [also with] their mental health. For a lot of people ‘self-care’ is something that is now actively carved out in their day-to-day schedule. They’re looking for brands and products that resonate with them. They’re not so concerned about the price tag as long as it makes them feel good, feel relaxed, and mostly, feel happy.’

    The feel-good factor, over frugality

    Ipsos Mori’s latest report, released in April, shows that consumers have developed an ‘increased level of consciousness’ regarding their shopping habits. Retailers who provide good quality products with trusted brand stories and artisan production methods will win out in this trading environment over cheaply made and cheaply sold produce. Saliently, they add that, ‘Some [consumers] even mentioned that their new choices of brand or retailer were likely to stick once lockdown is lifted, highlighting the bizarre opportunity that this crisis could bring for brands.’

    It’s clear that COVID-19 has changed the consumer landscape. And it’s also abundantly clear that many high-end brands are experiencing an unexpected boom in sales too. Throughout this ‘comfort economy’ period, consumers are discovering new brands daily and forging new relationships with products and services that commanded a smaller slice of the pie pre-pandemic.

    If this constitutes the post-Coronavirus shopping environment, in which quality, craftsmanship and ethical manufacture take precedence over disposable, cheaply-made goods, we will have witnessed one of the biggest consumer shifts in history, and one that has positive repercussions for the consumer, manufacturer and the planet.

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About this Blog

This blog covers the most energising and restorative landscaping, biophillic architecture and perma-culture projects taking place across the world! I'm interested in how we incorporate nature into our environments, particularly urban environments. As we progress into the twenty-first century, we appear to be moving ever-further from the futuristic aesthetic that our predecessors imagined back in the mid-century. This blog looks at the methods and psychology of natural influence.

Authored by:

  • Jemma

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