Beware the new normal for consumers because it will be a lot like the old one

28 Mar 2022

Think back, oh maybe 18 months from now, and remember what commentators were saying. Post Pandemic, it’ll never be the same again for how people live, work and shop. We’ll all work from home. We’ll all live in relaxed sportswear, hopping from our Pelotons onto Zoom meetings and back again. No-one will visit a physical store again, go “out” out, still less travel outside the UK. Evenings will be spent glued to Netflix, binge-watching box sets while chomping on our latest Deliveroo order. Except, unsurprisingly, it’s not true.

Take, for example, menswear. Apparently the suit was dead and everyone was permanently dressed in loose fitting hoodies and other types of “homewear”. Yet now there are reports from the trade of suit sales being 10-25% up against 2019 figures as men smarten up for a wave of new occasions and buy into fresh trends for colours, stripes and checks.

Likewise, all our lives – or at least all our weekends – were going to be spent on home improvement projects and fundamentally all life had become home focused, boosting DIY retailers’ sales and profits for ever and a day. But it isn’t turning out that way, with the second half of March, again according to trade sources, looking much tougher than expected and excess turnover melting away like winter snows as people start socialising, heading out into the sunshine and generally living life again.

It’s easy to reel off anecdotes like this and say in a vague way that things are heading back towards a new new normal. But, particularly at a time when UK household finances are under unprecedented strain from an exploding cost of living, how do you quantify it? ConsumerCast’s latest report does just that.

Spring 2022 Retail Outlook lays out in detail what you can expect as consumers return to more normal patterns of life in terms of how they spend their time and money. And it’s tricky news for retail, which despite all its troubles during the Pandemic, has seen a massive diversion of cash out of “fun” and into buying “stuff”. As with any new trend, there are winners and losers and ways to profit from it and strategies to avoid. The important thing is to stay informed and not bury your head in the sand. This change is real and it’s coming in the next few months.