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Insperiences: You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy an inflatable pub...

Wed Aug 26 08:00:00 EDT 2020

What do an inflatable pub, an antique diving suit, a Tom Jones jigsaw puzzle and a piece of the moon have in common? They are all among the bizarre items Brits purchased this year to lift their spirits during lockdown. In an effort to cope with – and even enjoy – the extra time at home, it seems some have treated themselves to a little bit of unconventional retail therapy in 2020. New research from Barclaycard shows that people across the UK have spent £40.6bn on items to lift their spirits during lockdown – that’s an average of £771.34 each.

In the second piece in our Insperiences series, we explore how our spending habits have changed during lockdown; the once-in-a-whiles we’ve been buying more of on a regular basis, the weird and wonderful one-offs, and what our lockdown buying habits say about us.

What have we been buying more of?

Did you enjoy a vegan feast, sourdough loaf, afternoon tea, or perhaps you recreated your favourite cocktail at home during lockdown? As pubs, cafes and restaurants were prompted to pivot their business models for customer safety and convenience, it seems Brits ate it up and have been treating themselves to more takeaway food and drinks, making it the most popular purchase during lockdown (24 per cent).

Seasonal summertime purchases have also been a big hit as we have spent more time outside. After takeaways, summer wardrobe items are second on the list (19 per cent), with outdoor plants and flowers, and gardening equipment also featuring in the top 20 at numbers 3 and 18 respectively. An emerging trend for home improvement has seen a third of us refreshing our houses and gardens, bringing a little bit of much-needed TLC and tranquillity to homes across the UK.

When cinemas were closed, it’s perhaps unsurprising that Brits have been happy to spend more on home entertainment. According to Barclaycard July spend data, spend on subscription services has increased by 39% compared to the previous month. Sales of video games and books are also up, sitting in the top twenty most popular lockdown purchases.

Comfort has been a top priority for many; sales of nightwear, loungewear and lingerie have soared, and sales of baking ingredients and cookery equipment increased as people reconnected with their inner domestic gods and goddesses – after all, we needed something to snack on while we binge-watched The Tiger King

Sales of spirits and wine deliveries and subscriptions have also soared as many rounded off the perfect night in with a glass of their favourite tipple.

The UK’s weirdest purchases

As a nation we’re famed for our quirky behaviour – and when we asked customers about their weirdest buys during lockdown, they didn’t disappoint. When we’re told we can’t go to the pub, what do we do? Buy a giant inflatable watering hole of course, the ultimate lockdown ‘insperience’.

Perhaps it was the 75th anniversary of VE Day, or the inspiring efforts of Captain Tom Moore raising millions of pounds for the NHS that sparked a desire for all things nostalgic: a World War II mask, an antique diving suit, a penny farthing and an antique milk churn all make the top twenty list of most bizarre lockdown purchases.

Unusual ‘fun night in’ purchases included a Tom Jones jigsaw puzzle, old karaoke and gaming machines, and a vintage homemade Slush Puppie maker. One customer purchased a hot tub – with no garden to put it in…

Other unorthodox lockdown buys on the list include a piece of the moon, a stretchy rubber chicken, a stuffed crocodile, a used postcard of Barnstaple, a thoroughly uncomfortable-sounding horse hair t-shirt, and perhaps our favourite – a cardboard cut-out of Mr Bean.

Consumer clusters

The purchases made during lockdown may have been varied, but distinct consumer clusters have emerged:

  • Home Hustlers or the DIY-lovers (33% of UK adults) who spent an average of £508 each to spruce up their homes and gardens.
  • Clothing Collectors (36%) who have shelled out on clothing and beauty products, spending an average of £384.70
  • Proactive Parents (14%) who have parted with £623.60 on average buying entertainment and home-school resources
  • Fitness Fanatics (13%) invested £682 on sports and outdoor gear on average, with men spending almost triple the amount of women at £941.40, compared to £324.00
  • Pet Purchasers - while only 5 per cent of those surveyed bought a new four-legged friend, on average they were willing to spend a hefty £635.50

A horse hair t-shirt is for life, not just for Christmas

According to Barclaycard research, 80 per cent of consumers plan to keep all of their lockdown purchases, with 47 per cent claiming all of them were useful in some way – even if just a distraction.

However, some are more reluctant to let their new hoard take over their homes. As such, with one in five people claiming to be bored with what they’ve bought and 33 per cent stating that they’d like to pass items on for others to make use of, it’s expected that £543m worth of donations will be made to charity in the near future.

As the UK attempts to recover from the lockdown, it seems as though people have found a sense of newly restored sanctity in their homes. Fun, personalised and convenient, insperiences are here to stay in the ‘new-normal’.

What’s the strangest purchase you made during lockdown?