There were a few questions on Wednesday that we didn’t have time to answer at the end of the session. We have put the remaining questions to our speakers and their responses are below:
“I am interested in getting your views on the changing role of the high street. With click and collect becoming increasingly more popular and pureplay retailers looking to partner with high street stores or open stores of their own, is the high street becoming more of an information source rather than just a place to purchase your goods?”
In the past, there was a fear that as e-commerce grew, the high-street may suffer as consumers moved to cheaper, convenient online competitors. However, many of the examples of self-service I gave at the conference point to technological innovations that are enhancing the in-store shopping experience as well as the process of gathering information. The mobile web is also increasing the information that consumers have at their fingertips no matter where they are – a variety of apps allow consumers to scan items in-store and get an immediate price comparison of that item from other high street stores as well as online.
Bricks-and-mortar and online share a symbiotic relationship and mobile technology is helping to blur the lines between the two. This gives rise to so-called “inline” shopping where technology meets the traditional retail experience. On top of this, there are several specific reasons why we would argue that the high street will not become solely a base for research:
- There are limits to the customer service experience online: in-store offers a more complete experience than shopping online thanks to the opportunity for theatre.
- Localism has a major role to play: there is strong support for local issues/communities/high streets and an accompanying appetite for a more intimate, familiar retail experience. Localism is going to provide sizeable opportunities in the medium-term.
- Technological innovation (particularly in the self-service arena) is set to continue enhancing the in-store experience allowing consumers to not only gather ever-more usual information prior to purchase, but also to streamline and improve the purchase process.
Of course, high streets (and the sector in general) still have some major challenges ahead. Macro socio-economic problems such as regional and inner-city decline will battle with severely restricted disposable incomes. Overall though, the benefits of shopping in-store (trial, enhanced service experience, immediate gratification etc) will ensure the UK high street is still able to fight for its place as a point of purchase and not just an information source.
- Katie Toll, Head of Research
What impact do you feel inadequate pension provision and saving is likely to have on the extent to which older consumers can get involved in helping out grown up children and grandchildren? Do you see older consumers’ disposable incomes and what they spend on themselves becoming terminally squeezed?
- Horticultural Trade Association
The new twist on the ‘sandwich generation’ whereby we see a new OAP generation (Old Age Providers) will be one that is short lived. As mentioned in the conclusions of my presentation, the OAP generation is the last of a ‘golden generation’ that will be able to provide for their whole family unit. The current OAP generation are in a unique position to help financially support the rest of their family but, as you suggest, inadequate pension provision together with a reduced level of asset accumulation (largely due to a decline in the housing market) will mean that future grandparent cohorts will not be in the same financial position.
It is likely then that the financial responsibility will be more evenly shared across the whole family along with extra support from extended networks/family ties and via new means such as social lending sites such as Zopa.
- Yasmine Baladi, Associate Director, Client Services
In terms of ethical/social considerations are there differences in terms of age and social grade?
The proportion that agree with the statement “I am concerned about what I personally can do to help protect the environment” stands at over 70% and remained firm throughout the recession. There is a degree of variation across different socio-economic groups: green sentiment is particularly acute among women and becomes more of an issue among older segments. Similarly, more affluent consumers are more likely to agree with the statement but despite that, agreement does not fall below 65% in any group. When we look at behavioural measures we find fewer differences. The War on Waste has seen consumers preventing financial waste as well as simultaneously meeting their green concerns and this is reflected in the fact that there is no difference across social grades for the propensity to recycle and reduce energy consumption. Green has become less about paying a premium and more about minimising wasteful consumption, which has additional financial consequences and so is more attractive to a more diverse range of socio-economic groups.
We hold to our conviction that the trend is for consumers, macro-economic storms or no, to be legitimately and often deeply troubled by evidence of worsening environmental despoliation. But we recognise that the expression of eco-concerns has become something of a social norm: an expression, in other words, in which we are all meant to engage. From our review of public survey techniques, we know that when certain questions relating to environmental worries are put to consumers online as opposed to face-to-face then the expressed level of concern can often be somewhat lower. This does not detract from our general view that climate change is, as a public anxiety, widespread, profound and (for all practical purposes) permanent.
- Pippa Goodman, Commercial Director