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Sprouts, Rosé and selfies


What did we spend our money on in 2016?

At the start of last year, I wrote a blog on the retail trends of 2015 and just what is was we spent our hard earned money on. As 2016 was such a turbulent year I thought I would do a follow-up and see what influenced our spending and how the trends have changed over the last year. All the stats are from a recent Channel 4 documentary presented by retail guru Mary Portas.

If you prefer watching videos to reading stuff, here’s a brief animated version just for you.

Last year in the UK our shopping habit topped a staggering £364 billion – on average that’s £7 billion a week. Internet purchases rose by 16% as many retailers looked to simplify their online processes and provide a greater digital customer experience. But despite that, and all the uncertainty around the economy, the high street saw spending at its highest level in 14 years. And one of the unexpected reasons for this – Halloween. During October we embraced all things ghostly and spent a scary £310 million! But what else influenced our purchases throughout the year?

Illustration of broccoli

With all those New Year’s resolutions at the start of the year, it’s probably not much of a surprise that a cookery book would do well. Instagram sensation Joe Wickes took this to a whole new level though with his ‘Lean in 15’ book. It sold over a million copies making him the best-selling non-fiction author of the year. It also rocketed him to the third best-selling cookery writer of all time. Not bad for someone who two years ago borrowed a thousand pounds from his mum and dad to qualify as a personal trainer!

So what’s the secret to Joe’s success? He’s one of a new breed of media-savvy guys who understand completely the power of personal branding. He began by posting high-intensity workout videos on YouTube and low carb recipes on Instagram. His success on social media is largely down to him providing his followers with something perceived as valuable, for free. He then cleverly markets his recipe book off of the back of that. He now employs nearly 50 staff which is a great achievement for someone who’s only been going for two years!

Illustration of selfie stick

Cosmetics were also big in 2016. This was driven by the selfie. We take over 1.2 billion a year in the UK and retailers have responded by providing us with everything we need to ensure we are looking our best! And thanks to the queen of selfies, Kim Kardashian, contouring is now a thing. Superdrug reported that sales of its contouring makeup kits had doubled in the last year and sales of contouring brushes had risen by 150%.

Illustration of David Bowie lightning strike

Major events throughout the year had a very direct influence on our spending. When astronaut Tim Peake flew to the international space station, sales of telescopes grew by 25%. And when the news of David Bowie’s death broke, we all rushed out to buy vinyl. Although the news was shocking to many, his record label was prepared. His final album was released just two days before his death and stores were well stocked with both vinyl and CDs. In just three months, his album had overtaken 2015’s number one selling vinyl of the year – Adele. In stark contrast, when Prince’s shock death was announced a short time later and fans flocked to buy his music, stores were unprepared and stocks soon ran out. These and other high-profile deaths this year have contributed to a resurgence in purchasing of physical music.

Other surprising influences on our spending came from the likes of Leicester City. When they beat odds of 5000-1 to win the Premier League, sales of blue cars in the city went up by over 340%. Who could have predicted that?

Illustration of bunting

The Queen also influenced our spending last year. In celebration of her 90th birthday, M&S reported sales of pork pies increased 10%, cream cakes rose 27% and English sparkling wine grew by 43%. Asda also reaped the benefits with corgi shaped cakes flying off the shelves and enough champagne sold over her majesty’s birthday weekend to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool. That’s 30,000 bottles if you are wondering. Sales of bunting also grew by 23% – apparently, that’s 6.5 million metres of ribbon!

Following Brexit and the increase in costs for holidays abroad, we decided to stay home instead. Decathlon saw a 15% rise in camping equipment and online searches for glamping grew 100%.

Illustration of Pokemon

Pokemon Go took over the world and our lives and had us all heading outdoors. And whilst this may have distracted us from our shopping habit for a while, it did have a knock-on effect on the high street. Sales of Nintendo DS increased by 158% and sales of mobile phone chargers rose from 2000 units a week to 5000.

Illustration of brussels sprouts

It might be hard to believe now but we actually had three heat waves last year when temperatures topped the magical 28º. This resulted in a 50% increase in sorbet sales. But the surprise food hit of the summer was actually a vegetable. In July Asda sold 50% more brussels sprouts than the previous year. In July! Their popularity is down to their new found status as a super food. New Scientist magazine has declared them to have more health-giving benefits than kale.

Illustration of bottle of Rosé

Thanks to another celebrity endorsement, sales of rosé wine increased by 100%. When David Beckham posted a picture of a glass of wine against a sunset on his Instagram page, it suddenly became an acceptable drink for guys. The brosé was born and English vineyards benefited.

Illustration of Marmite

Once again proving that there is no such thing as bad publicity, Unilever and Tesco had a spat over increasing costs of Marmite. Tesco removed all supplies from their shelves and people began panic buying. 24 hours later the dispute was resolved, Marmite was back and sales were up 60%.

One of the best selling items of 2016 were children’s books. They now account for 1 in every 3 books sold and are worth over £390 million. Once again this has largely been influenced by a number of celebrity authors entering the market. Last year alone David Walliams sold over £50 million worth of books from his series of children’s fiction.

Illustration of Water Melon

So what does 2017 have in store for us? Well if last year’s trends are any indication, celebrity endorsements will play a big part in our choices. As will the ever increasing influence of social media. Retailers are predicting watermelon juice will be the next big food phenomena as Beyonce has just invested in a juicing company. Expect a few artfully taken Instagram posts to be appearing soon… Smart technology for our home is expected to become more popular as the prices become more affordable. And audio books are tipped to become the next big thing. Maybe that’s just to help us block out the world for a little while. The only thing we can really say with any certainty about 2017 is that it will be unpredictable. Here’s hoping it will be a healthy, happy and prosperous one for us all.

Illustration of Mary Portas

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