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Brits splash out on living the high life

Brits splash out on living the high life

Jet-setting around the world, restaurant dining, sipping champagne and oversized designer handbags.

All this glitz and glamour was once the reserve of the rich and famous, but latest research from Mintel’s flagship British Lifestyles report shows that, in Britain today, even your average Joe is enjoying a taste of this luxury lifestyle.

Despite rising interest rates, higher fuel costs and an uncertain housing market, Brits spent more in 2006 than in the previous year.

Last year, consumer expenditure hit £1.09 trillion**, up a healthy 9 per cent on 2005 figures.  This compares to a 6 per cent growth in consumer spend between 2004 and 2005.

Senior retail analyst at Mintel, Neil Mason, said, "The clear message is that it takes a lot to dampen down consumer confidence, as last year Brits continued to spend, spend, spend.

“Rising disposable income has lead to higher expectations about the quality of life, and as a result we are increasingly trading up and spending more on better quality, premium products and services.”

Looking to the future, Brits show a real desire to continue living the high life, with the top spending priorities focused on indulgent ways to enjoy life.

 Indeed, holidays are the number one priority for British adults over the next 12 months.  As many as one in four (23 per cent) plan to go on a major foreign holiday, with 22 per cent planning to go on a short break, showing just how much we jet-setting Brits love to get away from it all.

But the fun doesn't stop there.  Brits also want to splash out on a new wardrobe, with 20 per cent looking to buy clothes and shoes.  Meanwhile, the same number (20 per cent) plan to avoid the drudgery of day to day cooking, by heading for a meal out on the town.

It is only after these indulgent plans that we start to see any kind of interest in the more sensible financial decisions, such as paying off credit card loans (14 per cent) or paying off a mortgage (10 per cent).

Mason continued, "Whether people's finances and the state of the economy will allow Brits to continue prioritising holidays and eating out over day-to-day essentials, such as loan and mortgage repayments, is the current hot topic among economists.

“Rising interest rates and mixed messages about the housing market have, as yet, failed to dampen consumer spending in the high street.  But a degree of caution is creeping into the consumer economy, which means we are likely to see a slower rate of growth in the medium term.”

Travel: Brits enjoy far-flung follies

Jet-setting around the world was once a luxury enjoyed by the privileged few.  But the dawn of budget airlines opened up the world to many and we now live in an era when every man and his dog expects at least one foreign holiday a year.

Domestic holidays (£9.8 billion) have regained some of their popularity over the past few years and have seen value sales grow 20 per cent between 2002 and 2006.

But spend on overseas holidays (£23.8 billion) is up 28 per cent over the same four year period, with long haul foreign holidays proving the fastest growing travel market.  Spend here has increased by no less than 41 per cent between 2002 and 2006, to hit just shy of £8 billion.

Drinking at home:  Bottoms up to champagne and cocktails

The long term trend of people drinking at home continues.  But while once this conjured up sad images of drinking poor quality booze alone in front of the TV, home drinking is now a much more glamorous affair.

Across the market as a whole there is an underlying trend towards up-market tipples, such as champagne and cocktails.

Sales of wine and champagne (now worth over £10.2 billion) have increased 26 per cent between 2002 and 2006, while sales of spirits and liqueurs - key ingredients for many a favourite cocktail - have increased 16 per cent over the same period.

Eating out:  A fresh look at old favourites

Today, eating out is an intrinsic part of British life and no longer just an occasional treat.  The eating out market is now worth £17.7 billion up 18 per cent on 2002, but is expected to see no less than 27 per cent growth in the coming 6 years, as restaurants continue to cater for the more discerning British diner.

Indeed, while the humble pub has long since been transformed into a gastropub, it is now the turn of burger joints (Gourmet Burger Kitchen), the local chippy (Sea Cow) and the pie and mash shop (Canteen) to undergo a similar makeover.

Eating in: Posh nosh

Brits were always seen as a bit of a failure in the culinary world, but a greater interest in travel and eating out has meant that at home many are really starting to push the boat out.

Today, more of us are reaching for premium priced food that is higher quality, has health benefits or is organic or ethically sourced.  Despite pressures on prices in the food market, expenditure here has risen 14 per cent since 2002 to reach £58.3 billion, testament to our move up-market.

Charity: Cause Celeb

Growing concern about the environment and the world at large has resulted in an increasing level of charitable donations.

The massive national move to give money to the victims of the Tsunami, calls from Bob Geldof and Live 8 and Bono with his Red campaign, have undoubtedly contributed to the 19 per cent increase in charitable donations since 2002.  In 2006, donations stood at £8.7 billion.

Increasingly celebs are using their status to raise awareness about environmental issues - think Chris Martin, Robert Redford, Leo Di Caprio - and Brits are jumping on the bandwagon.

Fashion and Magazines:  Read all about it!

Brits clearly can't get enough of celebrity life.  Celebrity gossip based magazines have really taken off, keeping us all abreast of what they are doing, what they are wearing, where they are going and as a result today's consumer magazine market hit the £1 billion mark for the first time ever.

To help us emulate their style, more and more celebs are putting their names to fashion lines.  The very fact that big name stores are signing up the likes of Kate Moss, Madonna, Stella McCartney and now Lily Allen to launch a range of clothes is testament to the pulling power of today's celebrity.

Housing:  Home is still where the heart is

Today, an Englishman's home is still his castle.  Buying a house is the single biggest financial outlay that any of us are ever likely to make and with spend on housing now standing at around £400 billion, it accounts for almost £4 in every £10 that we spend.

Not only does it take the largest slice of consumer expenditure, it has seen by far and away the largest increase, with spend here rising by as much 65 per cent since 2002 alone.

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