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Consumer Research


Re-buying British

Re-buying British

New from OMD Sense 

No trend occurs in isolation – they're all interrelated – and the subject of this trend report is no exception. Trends such as mass affluence and the 'aspirational' consumer culture it supports are part of our stock in trade.

Those two trends are also dependent on globalisation, which is a macro-trend – a trend that binds others. Trade in the global economy provides consumers many of the brands they aspire to own, as well as the cash and credit which finance those purchases.

There's also an emerging reaction to globalisation -- we're calling this trend Re-buying British.


The past fifty years have seen Britons travelling abroad as tourists, in huge numbers,   waves of immigration, and the growing importation of everything from food to customs. Consumers have been enthralled by exotic new goods and experiences.

More recently, as globalisation evolved, the world really began to shrink and those new things from far-flung places became more numerous, more available and ever more familiar. A tipping point has been reached, and what was new to us fifty years ago, e.g. lager, or twenty years ago, e.g. spaghetti bolognese, is now everyday.

As a result, what's become more exciting and interesting in recent times, is the traditional and local stuff that was forgotten in that craze for exotic alternatives.

During the noughties, interest in a variety of "traditional" practices, products and lifestyles has reawakened and intensified. You could say that those old traditional things have actually become newly exotic.


An excellent example is lidos – the open air swimming pools and ponds whose Golden Age was in the 1930s. Councils opened hundreds, such as Tooting Bec lido in South London, and they became a popular resource.

This held until the 1950s, when the package holiday was invented and foreign travel (without enlistment) became possible for many people. By the early '70s, about 7 million people a year were travelling abroad on packages.

Lidos seemed to go out of fashion. Over the next three decades hundreds fell into disrepair and closed, apparently without much resistance from users.

That trend began to reverse four years ago, with the publication of a book about the Art Deco design of the lidos and the development of online groups campaigning for the restoration and re-opening of different lidos.

Since then work has begun on the repair and improvement of several mouldering London lidos   (Brockwell, London Fields) and campaigns for others, such as in Droitwich, are strengthening. From being a shabby, decrepit memento of a bygone time, the lido is being revitalised.

Allotments, knitting, cooking

That recovery is also due to other trends coinciding. Health and fitness are ever more important. The triathlon, which features a long swim, is the fastest growing sporting activity in the UK, making 50 metre lidos useful to more people.

Summers (this one aside) have been getting warmer. But along with lidos, a surprising range of other traditional products and practices are recovering.

Across Britain, there are long waiting lists for allotments. In August, the Telegraph reported, "Gardeners who want to grow their own vegetables are being forced to accept allotments a quarter of the normal size because of a surge in popularity.

“Rising interest has led councils to divide land set aside for plots into patches measuring 75 sq yards in an attempt to reduce spiralling waiting lists."

This mirrors the growing number of farmers' markets around the country, the increasing interest in where our food comes from and the popularity of TV shows such as the River Cottage series.

In cooking too, local food and dishes are championed, and these days some of the fanciest restaurants specialise in British cuisine, which twenty years ago was an oxymoron.
Knitting has grown in popularity and ales have begun to be taken as seriously as wine, even by people without beards.


Many traditional, old school consumer choices can also be seen as reactions to anxieties about waste and the environment. They are also 'slow' and simple, in a largely fast-paced and complicated urban society.

Above all they are to do with heritage. Local things become fascinating when the world is on your doorstep.

This new traditionalism is consumers buying British without being told to – it's a grassroots, homegrown consumer movement. Brands that can claim its virtues will harness this growing trend successfully.

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