Britons are pulling out all the stops to keep their household coffers topped up through times of austerity, even to the point of engaging in actions they believe to be wrong. According to JWT London’s latest Austerity Index report, a small percentage of Britons (6 percent) reveal that austerity has forced them to do something they believe to be unethical. This underscores recent reports from charities and police federations noting a rise in desperate crime: people stealing to simply feed themselves or their families.
The most popular method our 600 respondents are employing to raise money is clearing out their attics, wardrobes and cupboards, with 46 percent hawking unwanted goods at car boot sales or online auctions. More poignant is the revelation that a fifth (22 percent) have been obliged to part with things they still wanted or needed to make ends meet. An enterprising 16 percent are resourcefully “flipping” items: buying goods with the intention of selling them at a profit.
Glimpses of an emerging peer-to-peer economy are discernible too: 15 percent of respondents are selling their skills and knowledge to others, and 4 percent are making money from unused assets in their home, like parking spaces, storage space or spare rooms. (Peer Power is one of JWT’s key trends for 2013.) Finally, a substantial number are taking their chances with Lady Luck: 42 percent are trying to win competitions, and 12 percent have started playing the lottery. Tough times are driving the nation to ever-greater levels of resourcefulness.
This Austerity Index survey was conducted in June using SONAR™, JWT’s proprietary online tool. The JWT Austerity Index is a quarterly study that analyzes the impact of prolonged economic adversity on British consumers and markets. The Q2 report is available to download here. The Q1 report is also available for download, here.
Photo Credit: JWT London
In the first wave of JWT London’s new quarterly Austerity Index, we found that 92 percent of Britons are deploying one or more of a range of coping mechanisms to save money: using money-off coupons (58 percent), using loyalty points (53 percent), checking price comparison tools (54 percent), or switching utilities suppliers (19 percent) and mobile tariffs (17 percent). Austerity Britain appears to be producing a nation of savvy budget tacticians who are relying upon a slew of strategies to make their money go further. They’re also finding more ways to restock the coffers. Selling unwanted items is a popular strategy: 51 percent are selling or planning to sell items at car boot sales or auction sites like eBay.
JWT London’s findings suggest that being a thrifty consumer is now a way of life for many. This is not surprising given that low-income households fork out an average of £91 each week to pay for necessities like groceries, toiletries, petrol and travel. That’s excluding money for the mortgage or rent, or any bills. And once they’ve covered off those essentials, more than a third of those surveyed told us they have nothing left to spend on themselves or others as a treat at the end of the month. A further third have just over £12 a week, barely enough to cover a small round of drinks at the pub.
Amid the gloom, there’s a glint of steely resourcefulness. While 30 percent of people report feeling depressed, 27 percent say they feel in control. It seems that when push comes to shove, Britain will cope, using every trick and tactic at its disposal. No surprise then that 62 percent agree that austerity has taught us something: how to live with less.
Image Credit: Images_of_Money
This year there’s a definite air of nostalgia to the Oscars, with a majority of Best Picture nominees peering into the time tunnel: War Horse (World War I), The Artist (Old Hollywood), Midnight in Paris (1920s Paris) and so on. The Oscars are often cited as a cultural barometer of sorts, so what does this say about our mindset? JWT London asked a panel of British film viewers why we plunder our past so readily.
Participants (35 percent) were most likely to believe it’s a response to the times. The past offers escapism at a time when we’re buffeted by a harsh economy, global unrest and the spectre of terrorism. This is closely aligned to a feeling of “reassurance and comfort,” suggested by 32 percent. And 34 percent think it’s a response to cinema’s focus on technical fireworks: More than a whirlwind of special effects and explosions filmed in IMAX, 3D or even 4D, people are looking for an old-fashioned storyline.
There’s certainly nostalgia for the cinematic past. When asked to name the greatest era in cinema history, 78 percent pointed to a period before the turn of the century, and a majority (66 percent) believe today’s Hollywood A-listers don’t have the star quality they used to. Significant percentages would also like film-going to resurrect relics from the past like usherettes bearing treats (40 percent), a short feature before the film (35 percent) and the intermission (28 percent). Fewer than 3 percent choose downloading or streaming as their favorite way to watch films.
This reflects a wider appetite for all things retro, like classic TV (72 percent) and retro recipes (54 percent). Most people believe things used to be simpler (84 percent) or even better (51 percent). Even 50 percent of those aged 18-39 wish things “could be how they were in the old days.” Today’s unprecedented pace of change means we constantly need to learn new ways to live, which can be overwhelming. Looking to the past is a form of escapism and a reaction to the complexity of modern life. Nostalgia is a way to tap into familiarity, which builds emotional connections and warmth.
Photo Credit: M4D GROUP
Data from our study “The Recession and Its Impact on the Environment” shows that many new environmentally friendly consumer behaviors are a by-product of the recession and the pressing need to save money. But there’s still a sizable segment changing their habits for the environment’s sake alone and yet more who are doing so for both reasons. Regardless of motivation, the net result is that more and more eco-friendly behaviors are becoming embedded in British culture.
For brands, highlighting the dual benefits of saving money and saving the planet should be a winning formula and one that will serve them well beyond this recession. Oxfam and Marks & Spencer are doing this via their joint “Wardrobe Intervention” promotion. Users nominate someone with questionable style and send an e-card detailing how they can update their wardrobe with the M&S/Oxfam Clothes Exchange—by taking old M&S clothes to Oxfam, shoppers get a £5 voucher to spend in M&S on a new, more fashionable item.
To download the U.K. version of “The Recession and Its Impact on the Environment,” click here.
There’s been much speculation as to whether this recession would sideline consumers’ environmental concerns. Our study “The Recession and Its Impact on the Environment” found this has not been the case in the U.K. While respondents perceive green behavior to be costly, well over half say they are anxious about a range of global green issues, including depletion of natural resources, extinction of plant and animal species, deforestation and exhaustion of landfill sites.
For brands, this means that corporate responsibility investments cannot be left to slide, as environmental issues will remain high on the consumer agenda for the foreseeable future. And with consumers increasingly quick to detect greenwashing, CSR initiatives should not be a short-term selling tool but a long-term commitment.
Marks & Spencer’s Plan A is the benchmark for putting CSR at the heart of a business. The five-year, 100-point eco-plan, sees the brand “working with our customers and our suppliers to combat climate change, reduce waste, safeguard natural resources, trade ethically and build a healthier nation.” Becoming carbon-neutral by 2012 is at the heart of the strategy. According to the M&S vision, “There is no Plan B.”
To download the U.K. version of “The Recession and Its Impact on the Environment,” click here.
Official GDP figures released this month showed that the UK economy contracted by almost 5 percent in the first quarter compared to the previous year. Second quarter figures are expected to show a further contraction, and although many believe the recession is nearing its end, the economy is not expected to bounce back quickly or strongly.
Meanwhile, Britons seem to have adapted well to their new, more straitened circumstances, quickly grasping that a few simple lifestyle changes can go a long way toward balancing the household budget. Lots of us have adopted a raft of coping mechanisms: avoiding waste, minimizing our purchases and making them go further, shopping around (particularly online), carefully planning or postponing major purchases, and stoically resisting temptation. Having returned to the days of “make do and mend,” Brits will likely settle into a long-term pattern of prudence.
Brands must now adapt to the new age of frugality to stay relevant: They need to work harder, offer more value and give the consumer a crystal clear reason to buy, because nowadays competition is everywhere: a couple of cocktails or a new pair of sandals? A new foundation or that Lost box set?
Brands should acknowledge consumer caution and encourage spending by offering lifestyle solutions, tangible value, trust and reassurance. And in these austere times, perhaps a bit of escapism might not go amiss either.
Marks & Spencer are doing a grand job of giving us a shoulder to lean on with their “Dine in for £10” offer, Wise Buys economy range, £2 lunchtime meal deals and a swaggering heritage campaign—it seems they have their bases covered.
It used be that most people who took advantage of vouchers, deals and discounts were living on a shoestring. Today, it’s simply a sign of a savvy shopper, whatever their income. This recession has seen the rise of the deal-seeking affluent, and brands that have not traditionally catered to an affluent audience should be doing all they can to appeal to this new breed of discount shopper. By luring in these consumers now and offering them a good experience, brands may well retain their custom beyond the recession.
One example from the U.K., which I highlight in our Balancing Health, Wellness and Budgets presentation (download in the Trends and Research page), is discount supermarket chain Aldi, which swiftly added luxury items such as whole Canadian lobster (£5.99) and premium caviar (£1.69) in response to an influx of high-income customers. One trend forecaster has labeled these shoppers “the Aldirati,” while some call them NFAs (no-frills affluents), as an article in the Times of London points out. A recent Aldi campaign hit the nail on the head with the tagline: “Don’t change your lifestyle, change your supermarket.”