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The View from the High Street.

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I’m beginning to worry. The results of our latest round of emotive user experience research all point to one thing – customers are confused. I can’t say I blame them. In between the doomed-laden headlines in our national press about the state of the economy lie stories about how consumers have never had it so good. Here’s one headline: “UK shoppers gain as prices fall again in March”. Really? Yes, really.
So what’s going on?

 

As we all know, businesses are having to compete more and more for their market’s custom – and that means deals, offers and price reductions abound. The result is that non-food prices fell by 2.6% in March, compared to the same time last year, and even overall food prices fell by 0.4% for the same period. Honestly, I don’t know how your businesses are doing it – big love to the stalwarts of our retail industry. Tough times, but you’re getting through them.

Does this mean it’s all about value again?

Value is massive in today’s market – unless they’re living off the results of their Panamanian investments, consumers are still having to tighten their purse strings and look out for the best deals when providing for their families. It’s partly why M&S clothing is taking such a battering.

To cap a miserable few years, clothing and homeware at the grande dame of the high street fell by 3% in the final quarter of 2015 and M&S’s new boss Steve Rowe will have to go all out to turn things around. I mean, why buy an M&S polo shirt at £15 when you can get the same at Next for £12? Consumers need to be getting value – but they’re demanding quality as well.

Aldi’s rise continues.

As we’re talking about high streets, I’ve got important news from everyone’s favourite out of town discount supermarket – it’s not just out of town any more. In a bold move that clearly demonstrates their confidence in taking on the big boys, Aldi have launched a rival to Tesco Express in London – a high street store with half the usual space of out of town Aldis but with twice the number of staff to keep shelves stocked and queues to a minimum.

Time will tell if this move pays off, but right now things are looking good for the German store. It’s taken over Waitrose and settled in as our 6th biggest supermarket – and sales are rising by over 15% each year. How? Value goods at the same quality as the big brands. Not only are their wines winning awards, but Aldi’s own nappy range is the second biggest selling brand after the mighty Pampers. Not bad going.

Anyone not faring quite so well?

Along with quality and value, today’s consumers like to be able to trust the stores they do business with – and Tesco have recently come a real cropper on this. A couple of weeks ago they launched a series of farm brand to sell their products under – we’re talking the likes of Boswell Farm, Willow Farm and Suntrail Farms. Do these farms exist? No. That’s a black mark against your name Tesco – and the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) called them out on it.

Working on the principle that trust is an important issues for consumers, the NFU have gone one step further and have published a sourcing guide, so we can all see how well the biggest names on the high street do when it comes to supporting British produce. I predict that more and more stores will sign up for this because if they don’t, the guide will simply publish a question mark next to their name – and who wants that?

So it’s quality, value and trust?

Most definitely. The trick is to know what those words mean for your particular group of consumers. Are they after locally sourced products with a proven trail from field to fork? Or are they looking for good quality discount brands at knock-down prices? You need to get this one thing right, stick to it and then everything else will follow.

I’ve recently been helping a vast array of businesses find out what those three words mean to their market – and they’re all already reaping the rewards. It might only need a slight tweak in a marketing strategy but the results are sometimes quite incredible. Interested in finding out more? Connect with me and my team of consumer research consultants here at The Monachie Project and we can make sure that your business is the next good news story from the high street.

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