Monday, 16 December 2019

The Age Of Conspicuous Thrift Returns With A Vengeance

A decade ago, amidst the echoes of the global financial crisis, we were talking about a new Age of Conspicuous Thrift and the 'counter-Veblen effect' when "preferences for goods increase as their price falls, over and above the traditional supply and demand effect, due to a conspicuous thrift amongst some consumers." A week ago, it was pointed out there are more food banks than McDonalds outlets in the UK. And a survey by Mazuma Mobile, the mobile phone recycling firm, has found that 85% of Brits regularly purchase pre-owned products instead of new, from books and handbags, to computers and mobile phones. In fact, 45% plan on giving pre-owned items as gifts this Christmas and 52% would happily receive them.

Over the past decade we've had very low interest rates, plenty of cheap credit, £36bn in PPI compensation (though some is yet to be paid), strong employment and some feeble growth, yet UK household debt remains at record levels and the UK economy is shrinking. That means 2020 is set to be a very hard year, which explains why so many Brits are battening down the hatches - particularly those in the early stages of their careers. Previously, those aged 25 – 34 were most likely to purchased pre-owned items as gifts, but they've been overtaken by 18 – 24 year olds. 

Londoners (60%) and the Northern Irish (66%) are happiest to receive pre-owned items as presents, yet even the lowest figure is still 43% (in the North West), which means conspicuous thrift, rather than conspicuous consumption has really taken hold in the UK. 

Craig Smith from Mazuma Mobile says: 
“Attitudes are changing towards pre-owned shopping as people become savvier with their cash...  many of us are simply happy to receive something we like, especially when it’s better for the environment and our wallets. In fact, over a third of those we surveyed (37%) said they would consider having an entirely pre-owned Christmas this year, including gifts and decorations!"
The top 10 pre-owned items purchased among the 2,000 people surveyed by Mazuma Mobile via OnePoll in October 2019 were:

1. Books (68%) 
2. Cars (62%) 
3. Furniture (49%) 
4. Clothes (43%) 
5. Jewellery (37%) 
6. Musical instruments (35%) 
7. Mobile phones (34%) 
8. Televisions (32%) 
9. Handbags (29%) 
10. Computers (29%) 

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