Q&A: Glen Tooke – Worldpanel Division, Consumer Insight Director, Fashion at Kantar.
Glen and entertainment counterpart James Foti are presenting called How to Plan for Changing Consumer Behaviours at the global c-suite conference for brand owners and leaders Licensing Leadership Summit, which runs from 28-29 October 2020 as part of Festival of Licensing.
Q: Your session synopsis say ‘as consumers re-evaluate brand choices and household budgets fall, entirely new behaviours are emerging’; tell us more.
GT: There have been so many behaviours, both old and new, to observe and it’s been fascinating. Some behaviours have changed depending on permissions; what we are ‘allowed’ to do. So, when DIY stores opened after lockdown, queues snaked around the car parks and customer volumes were at higher levels than pre-lockdown. People were so bored of being at home they just wanted something, anything, different to do. In that instance, it was browsing round B&Q, but we saw a similar trend in the fashion industry when that reopened – huge pent up demand led to massive first week queues for stores like Primark.
We also saw the emergence of entirely new behaviours – microtrends – like the growth in loungewear. With nowhere to go, we all just wanted to be comfy at home. There has been so much communication about mindfulness and mental health, too, and the importance of taking a drawing a line between work and evening. Our natural transition from workwear into casualwear at the end of the day, switched to casualwear into loungewear.
We have also seen a move towards needs-based spending – so buying to satisfy a need rather than a want. This is due to two big factors: our budgets are falling, so we are self-justifying every purchase; and the pace of change. Things are changing on a daily basis, so we are reluctant to buy ahead. Why buy a Christmas outfit when we don’t know if we’ll even be allowed to celebrate? We’ve become more agile in our spending, and retailers need to adapt to these changing customer needs equally quickly while remaining true to their brand and purpose.
You talk about the acceleration of digital streaming and online shopping, how is this likely to affect brands and also retail over the next 6-18 months?
GT: This is really interesting because there was a massive shift to online spending over April and May, when just 20% off all fashion spending was in store. As stores reopened, this rose to 60%, compared to 70% pre-lockdown.
In the short to mid-term, we will still have that instore/online mix of spending habits and most customers will do both. That’s a big challenge for retailers: how to think about that each individual customer as an online and instore shopper, rather than online and instore shoppers as two distinct demographics.
Our research showed that around 75% of consumers actively state they are trying to minimise trips out of the house. On paper, this sounds like bad news for instore. However, it provides its own challenges for ecommerce because ‘out of the house’ doesn’t just mean going to the shops, it can also mean avoiding long Post Office queues to returns orders.
Online retailers need to be aware of that and provide excellent end-to-end service. We have been so inconvenienced over the last seven months that reliability is high on our list of needs. We don’t just want free next day delivery; we went our goods to actually turn up when we’re told they will.
Competition online can also be fiercer: it’s much easier for customers to compare products, brands, prices and service online than in store, where retailers benefit from pretty much a captive audience.
Q: What is the biggest impact we are going to see when it comes to Christmas consumer habits and how should retail respond to negate/maximise any behavioural changes?
GT: What we’ve seen in the data is that it’s those retailers who are most nimble that are doing best. So, if government guidance changes mid-December to say we can go to the pub and bubble in 12s, which stores will be first out of the blocks with Santa jumpers and partywear? And if we are allowed to celebrate New Year’s Eve beyond 9:59pm, who’s got the sequins ready to ring up at the tills?
Q: What’s the kick-back on the licensing sector – what does it mean for brands?
GT: Three points here: consumers view the licensing sector as an element of their [clothing] spend (it’s an unconscious purchase); it’s more important than ever to understand your customers and to sell them the products they want and not the ones you’d like them to buy. And you need to differentiate yourself. With licensed childrenswear, for example, featuring the right character may not enough. Some parents will want to see value, good workmanship and sustainable credentials, too. Offer all of these things, and customers – even when they are short of cash – will find it must easier to justify their spend.
Find out more at the Licensing Leadership Summit.
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