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UK retail industry adapts to changing consumer trends and inflation

By Don-Alvin Adegeest


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Online shopping Credits: Image: Paymentsense.com

The retail industry in the UK has shown resilience in the face of inflation and changing consumer behaviors, with first-quarter growth reported based on data from Square and Clearpay.

The pace of growth has moderated, however, when compared to the significant increase observed in 2022 as the pandemic receded. While the Office for Budget Responsibility predicts that the UK will avoid a recession, retailers must navigate evolving consumer preferences and seize opportunities within shifting market dynamics.

Omnichannel shopping has gained popularity, driven by next-generation consumers seeking brands that meet them where they are. Notably, pre-orders have seen 2.3 times higher spending than average online purchases, while in-store shopping has rebounded to pre-pandemic levels. Influencers leveraging their social platforms to drive younger consumers to stores with unique experiences have contributed to this trend. Additionally, mobile commerce has become a favored shopping channel for younger generations, with Clearpay reporting an 82 percent increase in mobile transactions since last year.

Buy Now, Pay Later becomes mainstream

The adoption of Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) services, such as Clearpay, has witnessed widespread acceptance, showing year-on-year sales growth across all age groups. While Gen Z and Millennials lead in BNPL usage, older shoppers are also embracing this payment method for budgeting and everyday purchases. Businesses can tap into BNPL platforms as effective marketing channels to reach a broader consumer base. In response to shifting consumer demands, retailers should focus on utility, quality, and longevity when curating their product offerings. The quiet luxury trend has gained traction, exemplified by a 72 percent increase in sales of designer fashion items on Clearpay since 2021. Sales of workwear products have surged, reflecting a return to the office and the desire for sophisticated staple pieces.

The beauty sector continues to thrive as consumers prioritise self-care and well-being. Despite the reopening of salons, beauty product sales have surged more than five-fold on Clearpay since 2020, signaling a lasting habit. The growth extends to new beauty facets, including beauty tech and male cosmetics.

Online shopping surges in the evening

Evenings have emerged as the "New Saturdays" for retail therapy, with consumers increasingly indulging in shopping during the period between 6 pm and 9 pm. This window consistently sees the highest spending of the day, surpassing other three-hour periods by 20 percent. Wednesday evenings, in particular, have become the most significant shopping period, with 50 million pounds worth of transactions recorded between 6 pm and 9 pm.

As the holiday season approaches, retail businesses must start preparations well in advance. Staff optimization remains an opportunity for improvement, with AI-powered tools offering automation of back-end processes to maximize staff impact. Automated messaging tools and marketing software can enhance customer relations and drive traffic, while curated in-person events and brand collaborations create exceptional shopping experiences and enhance brand discoverability.

Retailers must navigate the challenges of inflation and changing consumer behaviors by leveraging data-driven insights and adapting to evolving trends. By embracing new strategies and technologies, they can position themselves for success in a dynamic retail landscape.