Consumers’ demands have changed – too bad retailers haven’t noticed


Two buzzwords of the moment are “experience” and “relevant”.

Now that we’ve reached “peak stuff”, the trend is to invest in experiences rather than objects (minibreaks, funny cushions and cocktails over more furniture and overpriced burgers) – and you can see the impact on high streets all over the country. The latest reasonably priced chain to announce financial difficulties is Prezzo, which is closing 94 restaurants.

Byron, the hamburger outlet, and Jamie’s Italian have both been forced to radically slim down their businesses, mainly because supermarkets now offer decent stuff you can cook at home which mimics their meals.

At the same time, the number of microbreweries, designer gin and vodka brands and small bars is booming – because they offer something that’s a talking point.

Online shopping is another factor – it eliminates the need to waste time travelling and face rejection when your size isn’t in stock. Yet, the growth of online shopping doesn’t necessarily mean we are buying more.

Next has just announced a drop in sales, and now Marks & Spencer is revamping the team in charge of clothing in the face of a continued slump in profits.

The new bosses say they want to make Marks & Spencer fashion “more relevant to more people”, but that mantra will never yield results, given changing attitudes to purchasing.

We rarely buy clothing for practicality, but for a change in mood – a mini-experience, if you like.

When the boss of M&S clothing says “we are transforming”, I have a sinking feeling I’ve heard that call to arms too many times before.

The customers are the ones who have already transformed – into people wanting thrills and excitement, not another pair of dreary trousers.