Breakfast in the Wolseley, wearing Primark

Katie Glass wrote an interesting piece in last week’s Sunday Times magazine, highlighting the contradictions so evident in young people’s lives: friends who drink in the Groucho but then commute home to a shared house in Slough; or friends who dress in Primark clothing to attend glitzy red carpet parties. Contradiction is becoming more apparent in our every day life and it emerged as a strong trend in our Future of Britain research too.

Here’s a small snapshot…Britons today are cutting back on the essentials, but continuing to treat themselves. A classic example is those who struggle to pay the gas bill, but splash out on new technology. During one of our in-depth interviews, a young recent school leaver struggled to explain why he forked out to upgrade to an iPhone 5.0. The internet should make our lives quicker and easier, but instead we spend hours online researching and comparing. We are all worried about the fate of the high street, but relentlessly shop online and seek out the best price. If we look at the companies doing well in the downturn we can see further evidence; at either end of the spectrum Aldi and John Lewis are on the up, whilst Tesco in the middle is struggling.

Why is this happening? Young people are faced with a multitude of pressures; the cost of education, the cost of property (whether it’s renting or buying), the lacklustre jobs market. At the same time, they don’t want to live a life of austerity. This forces them to make difficult choices, but they are reacting in a savvy, entrepreneurial manner. We could almost call them Empowered Compromisers. Armed with the latest app and a wide network of socially connected friends they can have it all – without paying full price. Whilst they must have the latest smartphone, they are happy to carry it in the pocket of a cheap pair of jeans. This mindset presents opportunities for brands, but at the same time, a greater need to really understand the motivators and triggers behind a purchase.


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