High street brands in fight for middle ground

Stephan Shakespeare
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ACCORDING to YouGov’s Household Economic Activity Tracker, 55 per cent of UK consumers are more price conscious than they were a month ago, compared to only two per cent who are less price conscious than in September.

With the uncertainty about the economy continuing and people keen to make sure they are not overspending, winning the value battle is becoming even more important for retailers.

If we focus within the BrandIndex on the key group of women aged 18-34, the high street fashion sector is reinforcing that message of a cautious consumer.

It shows that the level of Buzz has shifted since the first weekend of October last year, with the negative gap between the Buzz Index score in 2010 and in 2011 consistently between 1.5 and two points for fashionable chains operating on the UK’s high streets.

But how has the consistent depreciation of Buzz affected high street fashion brands’ value perceptions? At the extremes, brands such as Marks & Spencer and Primark have maintained a consistent impression of value in the eye of this target group year on year.

M&S in the first weekend of October scored 38 in 2010 compared to 39.7 in 2011. Primark may have a substantially lower Value score than M&S in 2011 at 16 but that is exactly where it was a year ago.

Topshop and H&M, on the other hand, are struggling to maintain their “value” status amongst women aged 18-34. Topshop has lost nearly eight points and H&M nearly 11 points of their Value scores since 2010 and are continuing on a downward path.

When consumers are tightening their belts, retailers appear to need to go ever further to prove their value to this target group and at the moment it seems that the top end and the bottom end are managing to do that but it is more of a struggle for those in the middle.

Stephan Shakespeare is the chief executive of YouGov