Recession behaviour isn’t over

Rosie Baker

A number of pieces of research have come together this week that point me to writing about recessionary shopper behaviour, although the downturn is supposedly over.

Asda’s Income Tracker, shopper behaviour research agency Shoppercentric’s “Shopping in the Recession” report and research from Leapfrog Planning & Research all demonstrate that shoppers are still very much concerned about having less money in their pockets for the mid to long term, something that retail marketers would do well to note and address in marketing communications.

Shoppers are still feeling the effects and are unlikely to revert back to pre-recession shopping behaviour, particularly with the knock on effects of the government’s first budget and the impending rise in VAT.

Shoppercentric has unveiled that latest in a series of reports looking at shopper behaviour trends during the recession and looking forward.

It has found that more people have now made what it describes as “major changes” to their spending than did at the peak of the recession in January 2009.

Asda’s Income tracker has today (21 July) revealed that consumers are £7 worse off each week than they were a year ago – the biggest fall in disposable income this year, and the sixth consecutive month of decline.

Meanwhile, Leapfrog has found that more people plan to visit value fashion retailer Primark than its mid-range rivals Marks & Spencer and Next for their holiday wardrobes, indicating in terms of fashion at least, price is still key.

Debra Walmsley, director of retail at Leapfrog, says that it is Primark’s “democratic appeal across age, gender location and income” that puts it at the heart of the savvy shopping trend.

She believes that this is something that other high street retailers will look to reflect in their marketing.

In its first report back in January 2009, Shoppercentric said that prudence would be a long-term trend in terms of shopper behaviour – something that seems to have played out. The latest report shows that more people are adopting a strategy of prudence above economising and switching stores.

Danielle Pinnington, the managing director of Shoppercentric, says that the ongoing leanings towards prudence offer retailers new challenges and opportunities for promotions on ingredient items to leverage a new-found propensity to cook from scratch.

That’ll be music to Waitrose’s ears as the supermarket has just introduced a new merchandising tactic in its stores to support its ongoing partnership with celebrity chef’s Heston Blumenthal and Delia Smith.

Waitrose is now displaying the ingredients for the chef’s recipes together at the end of aisle to make it easier for shoppers to pick up the ingredients and follow the recipes.

Pinnington points out that “difficulties in managing budgets don’t just disappear overnight” and while it’s somewhat obvious statement, it’s one that’s wholly relevant for retail marketers to consider.

There is a tendency to make sweeping statements that as the recession is over, consumers are feeling more confident. However, as these separate pieces of research point out, the behaviours developed by consumers when the recession hit are proving tough to shake. They will continue to inform purchase decisions and so should continue to inform marketing messages.

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