Ethical shopping trends in the UK, research findings

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 23rd October 2012

New research by Shoppercentric, an independent consumer research company, has found that ethical and environmental shoppers are increasing in the UK in spite of recent economic difficulty.

The “WindowOn Considered Shopper” report studied 1000 consumers aged 18 – 64 in the United Kingdom who were responsible for household shopping. It was reported that an increasing number of consumers were actively choosing to purchase “responsible” products despite the recession.

Interestingly, those most affected by the global recession were also the least concerned with the price of ethical products. The report showed that 47 per cent of consumers who were “strongly affected” by the recession do their best to purchase ethical and socially responsible products wherever possible. This compared with the 36 per cent of consumers who purchase ethically, who said that they were “unaffected” by the recession.

Does this mean that the higher cost of “ethical and environmental” contributed to the extra impact?

Melissa Davis, Director of Sustainability Consultancy, Truebranding said that recession spending habits of UK consumers were closely aligned with responsible shopping behavior.

“People are worried about waste; trying to do more to make their current purchases last, and it seems, consider ‘responsible’ products as better when faced with two similar products. The report raises timely questions for [brand owners] about how to communicate their sustainability credentials on the pack or shop fixture,” Ms Davis said.


UK consumers actively seek out ethical labels

The report found that 83 per cent of consumers actively sought out responsible labels, an increase from an earlier study by Shoppercentric in 2010. In comparison to the 2010 figures, most responsible labels have grown between one and four percent in terms of popularity. The most popular label that consumers reported to seek out was “free range,” with 34 per cent of consumers indicating they look for “free range” when shopping.

Other popular labels include “fair trade” and “locally sourced” which is sought after by 29 per cent and 22 per cent of shoppers respectively. Other labels that experienced positive growth included recyclable, biodegradable, dolphin friendly and farm assured. It was also reported that organic labels had not increased in popularity, sought after by 21 per cent of consumers – the same as in 2010.


Issues that affect the spending habits of UK consumers

The report showed that “managing the household budget” and “fuel prices” were the main issues on consumers’ minds, with 41 per cent of consumers reporting concern about these costs.

Similarly, “family health” was at 40 per cent and the “UK economy” was at 39 per cent. The issues of “global warming” and “crime in a shopper’s local neighbourhood” were less important to consumers, with only 16 and 15 per cent of consumers concerned about the issues.


Factors that would encourage more shoppers to purchase ethically

The report showed that 73 per cent of consumers would always be inclined to buy ethical goods “if the price matched those of standard products.” Furthermore 26 per cent of consumers said they would buy the goods if they had reassurance that ethical products were of the same quality as conventional ones.

The other predominant issue that affected the “ethical purchase” was the ease of being able to purchase it. It was reported that 39 per cent of shoppers said they would buy more responsible products if they were easier to locate in store, and 38 per cent said they would buy them “if there was more selection available.”