In Focus: Consumers’ Search for Value Continues

Three years on from the collapse of Lehman Brothers, with 2011 seeing the global economy  lurch from crisis to crisis and with unemployment and underemployment remaining a problem, consumers are continuing to embrace thrift but in increasingly creative ways.

Creative thrift embraces many forms including collaborative consumption, bargain-hunting as a way of life, buying second-hand and selling on, and the “battle” between mall culture and traditional shopping.

It’s worth noting that value does not simply equate to cheaper prices but rather it translates as striking a balance between quality and cost.

Looking ahead, for consumers worldwide, thriftier lifestyles and considered purchasing, even when buying luxury, will continue to be the norm. The consumer quest for value will extend beyond products to services – with greater interest in value tourism, fitness & wellness for example. Value isn’t king all of the time however, it must compete (or in a perfect world combine) with alternative priorities such as convenience, sustainability and experience.

A few examples of how the trend is playing out:

  • Collaborative consumption – product sharing either through renting and leasing schemes – the most obvious example being car sharing, or through peer to peer sharing where consumers share their own personal belongings. Also taking in traditional forms of purchasing such as bartering;
  • Bargain-hunting as a way of life – while shopping might remain feasibly compulsive, there is a sense in most countries that a new ethos is in the making, one that does not do away with shopping, but which accommodates personal demands to a budget-conscious mind and sensible and sustainable values; namely, responsible consumerism;
  • Buying second-hand and selling on – consumers are continuing to sharpen their ability to re-use, make-do, next-besting (letting brand names take a backseat to budget-friendly, personalised alternatives), sell-on and buy second-hand;
  • The embrace of thrift has contributed to a “battle” between mall culture and traditional shopping for today’s customer. While malls were seen as one-stop retail therapy hubs – now we see frugalistas seeking bargains in fresh produce markets, flea markets and charity shops.  Vintage fashion is branching out beyond traditional Western tastes, with boutiques like The Vintage Parlour in Abu Dhabi, for instance.