No Covid re-run: Social market researchers on consumer mood say 70% tightening belts; young men stressed, midlife crisis at 30 – but 24% free-spending so category discounts not required; plus ‘lipstick effect’ at play

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Social market researchers think the deepening cost of living crisis will play out very differently to Covid. But there are parallels with previous bust cycles. The “lipstick effect” comes into play, and certain categories – homeware, the everyday luxury of branded goods – will probably hold up. But home renovations could end up consisting of nicer taps than a whole bathroom suite. While the young, pensioners and the squeezed middle are talking about cutting back, a quarter of the population are comfortable, can play the system and will keep spending – and brands and retailers shouldn’t think about discounting to that cohort. For the broader population, brands and retailers need to communicate price hikes honestly and effectively – or lose community trust earned during Covid, fast. SCA’s Jasmine Beech, Roy Morgan’s Michele Levine and qualitative consumer researcher Neer Korn unpack what’s coming own the track – as far as anyone can tell.

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