Consumer behaviour still in flux in UK

17 May 2010

LONDON: Consumers in the UK are still displaying a diverse range of characteristics as they attempt to adapt to the economic climate.

Principles Strategy, the agency, surveyed 1,006 adults in the country, and found that 59% believed the recession had not yet come to an end, while 64% thought it would have an enduring impact.

Women were more pessimistic than men, and had also made greater changes to their purchase behaviour since the onset of the financial crisis.

More specifically, the study identified five groups of consumers, one of which was "impervious", a segment that had not been influenced by the downturn and represented 21% of the population.

This category was made up of older shoppers or people with sufficient wealth that the recession had not affected their individual circumstances.

Elsewhere, the buying habits of 22% of the panel were "unaltered" despite the fact that they had less money to spend that was previously the case.

"Prudents", or 28% of the sample, were essentially unscathed by the credit crunch but had reduced their discretionary purchase levels and were seeking out items available on promotion just in case.

The smallest cohort was the "knee-jerk reactors" on 13%, with people fitting this profile making more use of shopping lists and trading down to low cost and own-label brands.

Finally, the "beleaguered" accounted for 16% of consumers, who were typically younger and on lower incomes, and had engaged in "violent reining in" across the board.

Leisure and entertainment was another area where many respondents had sought to trim their outlay, generally choosing to "play at home" instead.

Other coping mechanisms included "reappraising high frills" and placing all purchases under scrutiny, as well as delaying the replacement of big-ticket products.

Further tactics have focused on "shopping clever" by being more informed about potential purchases, and "justified splurges", where consumers will make major acquisitions only if they are given a compelling reason to do so.

"Brands are currently responding with either a commitment to long-term brand consolidation or cutting back for short-term brand survival, depending on their view of marketing as either a cost or an investment," Abby Pick, head of strategy and planning at Principles Strategy, said.

Data sourced from The Drum; additional content by Warc staff