With a little extra help from my brands

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Companies are currently setting themselves up to try and offer shoppers extra in every way – extra products, extra advice, extra bonuses for interacting with them and extra ways to buy. With the government’s Autumn Statement unveiled this week by Chancellor George Osborne showing independent growth forecasts have been cut for the next couple of years, businesses are turning to this ’extra’ philosophy to convince consumers that they are indispensable.

This week, department store John Lewis announced it would give people extra advice beyond its usual product-selling remit about how they can save energy at home. The retailer has signed up as a founding partner of The Energy Saving Trust, which aims to provide impartial advice to consumers through its brand partners.

Of course, the scheme has benefits for John Lewis too. The company can use the Energy Saving Trust Recommended label on more than 3,000 products it sells including fridge freezers and TVs to highlight its most energy-efficient products.

Snuggle down on your sofa… there are plenty of brands lining up to go the extra mile and bring the shops into your living room

Meanwhile, Lastminute.com founder and the UK government’s digital champion Martha Lane Fox is leading a drive to encourage internet users to give up an hour of their time to help others get online. Brands including Three, John Lewis, BT, Lloyds TSB, JD Wetherspoon, Sky, Microsoft and the Post Office will be offering free internet in their retail outlets and encouraging their staff to get involved with the campaign.

In another sector, the helping hand philosophy is on display at Nectar. The loyalty card scheme is trialling Adpoints, which gives people the opportunity to earn four points per advertisement watched online. While cynics might suggest that this is a very good scheme for Nectar to get people to watch ads rather than truly assisting consumers, bear in mind that Adpoints was so popular on its launch last week that the system crashed temporarily.

Cash-strapped consumers want special offers, so finding a new way that basic data exchange and ad viewing can benefit shoppers further is being welcomed by many people.

Some brands are even offering consumers an entirely new way to shop. Whether people feel too depressed to hit the high street or want to spend cash in non-conspicuous ways, brands are lining up to offer physical in-home shopping. This sector is no longer restricted to the old Tupperware parties of the Fifties – all types of brands are getting involved.

Our cover story this week looks at innovative brands, from Housebites to Jamie Oliver, that have moved into this market. Jamie At Home now has more than 4,000 consultants selling the chef’s homeware and garden products via home shopping parties.

So if you are keen to spend and help get the economy moving again, snuggle down on your sofa and do some shopping. The great news is that you don’t even have to fiddle around online; there are plenty of brands lining up to go the extra mile and bring the shops into your living room.

Ruth Mortimer, associate editor

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