Week nine of lockdown and the nation is adapting to the restrictions and limitations currently affecting life in Britain.
Our sense of work, community, travel and time has all shifted as each day looks much like the next. But within the repetition, there is also a need for release, and people continue to seek special treats, even in their restricted lives.
Pre Covid-19, luxuries took many forms – trips to the theatre, clothes-buying splurges, weekend city breaks, meals out – invariably involving travel and socialising. In every case, these have been all but eradicated with travel curbed, social distancing introduced and leisure venues closed.
So, what can retail brands do to meet people’s need for lockdown luxuries? First, they must recognise that values – and the value of items – have changed. Many people’s incomes have been significantly reduced so they have less money to lavish, while also gaining more appreciation for simple pleasures. Second, currently all luxuries need to work within the context of the home.
As most people readily admit, a huge focus right now is on food and drink so guilty pleasures like premium ice-cream, craft beer, luxury chocolates and cocktail mixers meet the current criteria for affordable luxuries. For example Easter egg sales were at record highs this year!
Indeed, for food and drink brands, there is opportunity in satisfying people’s need for celebration in a world bereft of a meal out. Can brands use these special occasions to upgrade consumers to more premium products? Think products specifically for ‘date night’ or ‘movie night’.
Lockdown has seen a rise in the importance of home-centred rituals such as mid-morning tea and biscuits or a weekend leisurely soak in the bath – all giving brands the chance to tap into specific occasions.
As summer approaches and time outdoors is at a premium, gardens and BBQs will become more popular – the family bbq on a Sunday afternoon is a great opportunity to promote premium products for the whole family.
Depending on the brands involved, this means the luxuries may sit at the top of a retailer’s range (like expensive chocolates or biscuits) or at the bottom (a soap bar or shower gel in a high-end perfume range).
For retailers that don’t automatically see themselves in the treat segment, gift boxes and hampers can add luxury even for lower priced items. As birthdays and other special occasions are having to be spent apart, there may be greater demand for smaller luxury items that can be mailed. The increase in online Easter egg sales was attributed to people sending them to others as a present.
Once a selection is packaged up, a sense of occasion adds to the pleasure – and there’s a renewed joy in parcels coming through the post or being delivered when there’s so little coming and going within households.
Even premium fashion brands can still be desirable in lockdown wardrobes, but the items chosen are changing, as consumers look for comfy clothing to spend their days in.
Going forward, post-coronavirus brands and retailers may have to rethink how they market luxury, so they are tonally sensitive to a changed perspective. Too obviously luxurious may feel inappropriate in a newly post-pandemic world, while recognising that a sense of occasion and speciality will be needed more than ever