Category Archives: Economic

The Rise of Home Workers

A desire for a better work-life balance, coupled with converging technologies and the digitisation of products has led to 4 million people leaving the office behind to work primarily from home, with a further 1.8 million of us wanting work from home if we could.


Working from home trend
Infographic produced by Sage


Trend-Monitor’s own research into kitchen purchase behaviour and the motivations behind the purchase of kitchen products found that over 40% of UK kitchens have to double up as a home office space.

According to Mariano Mamertino, EMEA economist at global job site Indeed, said: “Flexibility is high up the wishlist for employees of all ages – from new parents who need to juggle work with childcare, to older workers.

“But younger workers in particular see it as essential. Digital natives often expect to be able to harness the flexibility that technology provides, to enable them to work whenever and wherever suits them.”

In 2014 The Office of National Statistics investigated the characteristics of home workers.  Their key findings are as follows:-

  • Of the 30.2 million people in work in January to March 2014, 4.2 million were home workers, giving a home worker rate of 13.9% of those in work.  This is the highest rate since comparable records began in 1998.
  • The number of home workers has grown by 1.3 million and the rate by 2.8 percentage points since 1998
  • Home workers tend to work in higher skilled roles than the rest of the population and consequently earn on average a higher hourly wage.
  • Almost two-thirds of home workers were self-employed in 2014.
  • Using the home for work is most prevalent within the agriculture and construction industries.
  • Working from home is more prevalent among individuals who are older.
  • The South West was the region of Great Britain with the highest home working rate at 17.1%.

More recent research by the TUC, published in May 2016 to mark National Work from Home day, found that the number of employees who say they usually work from home has increased by a fifth (19%) over the past decade, with nearly a quarter of a million (241,000) more people working from home than 10 years ago.

The biggest growth in regular home working has been among women employees, with 35% (157,000) more working from home in 2015 than in 2005.

However, men still account for the majority of homeworkers, with 912,000 regularly working from home in 2015, compared to 609,000 women.

Older employees are more likely to work from home, with 454,000 in their forties and 414,000 in their fifties home-working.


Source:  The Office of National Statistics, Sage, The TUC


The trend to ‘improve not move’ continues


More home owners in the UK are put off moving due to rising prices and the cost of stamp duty and are opting to improve or extend their property instead, new research suggests.

Some 63% of home owners believe that there is more value in home improvement than in moving, according to a survey by YouGov for property maintenance experts Bold & Reeves.

The survey report suggests that rising house prices have driven a spike in charges which has in turn pushed up estate agency, stamp duty and conveyancing fees and more than twice as many people, 44%, would now rather invest in home maintenance on their existing property with just 17% saying they would buy something new.

But home owners are cautious about the amount they spend. Since the slowdown in the housing market only 28% are investing more into their property and 49% are spending the same amount on home maintenance compared to what they spent five years ago, the research also shows.

And it found that the most cited impediment is the lack of available funds with 47% saying this has prevented them carrying our improvements while 26% said that not being able to trust contractors held them back.

Bill Shipton of Bold & Reeves believes that although 23% consider maintaining and servicing a property regularly to be the best way to increase the value of a property, not enough people are doing so.

He also pointed out that when they buy they want a home that has been properly maintained with 88% saying this is important, but when it comes to selling they do not always make sure their home is in top tip condition.

Alistair Nicholson, a partner at real estate firm Knight Frank, said that a property that is well serviced and maintained will give buyers more confidence in the product, make the property more presentable and ultimately easier to sell.

While figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show that alterations and improvements account for 14% of total housing costs, the amount spent on maintenance and repair costs have decreased year on year and take up a much lower share of spending at only 5%, an average of £7.60 per week.

Around one in three people, some 31%, wait a week or more before they fix something and Shipton said this suggests an apathetic approach that some people have to repair and maintenance.

‘Some households are still not investing enough in the upkeep of their home, posing a potential risk to their personal investment and even the wider housing stock. People continue to service their cars regularly, whilst neglecting the more significant investment of their homes,’ he added

Source: PropertyWire

Post Brexit Luxury Boom

Post-Brexit luxury boom

Luxury shoppers look to Britain for bargains as the value of the pound falls, but will the trend last?

The United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union after the 23 June referendum has had profound implications for many industries.  The reverberations of Brexit saw the pound drop to its lowest value in 31 years, while reports of banks and multinational corporations moving some of their operations overseas poured in as concerns about the UK’s future in Europe’s single market were realised.

But could there be a silver lining in the British Pound’s plummet?  JWT Intelligence think so.   Their opinion is that the UK’s luxury good’s market could see a spike as bargain-hunting luxury shoppers, particularly those from China, aim to capitalise on the fluctuating pound and the resulting falling price of designer goods purchased in the UK.

Online travel operator Ctrip noticed a 200% jump in clicks on its booking app for tours to the UK, while The Shanghai Spring Tour announced that almost all of their tour packages to Britain this summer have sold out. As the Guardian reported, many Chinese consumers have indulged in post-Brexit shopping sprees as Burberry coats and Louis Vuitton bags were amongst items to slump in price.

George Wallace, chief executive at London retail consultancy MHE Retail acknowledges that the pound is “low enough to move the needle a bit on the attractiveness of the U.K. to tourists in the short term.” Wallace anticipates a rise in visitors from China and the rest of Asia, along with the US and the Eurozone. “I think that…certainly for London, which is where most of the visitors come, and for luxury goods, there’s going to be a bit of a spike in business,” he adds.

Visit Britain, the country’s national tourism agency, adds that Chinese tourists are one of the highest spending groups that visit the UK, spending an average of £2,174 per visit in 2015.

Visit Britain also notes that British Airways saw a one third increase in US customers searching for flights to the UK on their website, in the days following the referendum. The chief executive of the European Tourism Association Tom Jenkins also agrees that tourists who were already thinking about a trip to the UK are more likely to visit while the pound is weak. “It will mean that [tourists] are likely to spend more money in the UK,” he says.

Wallace forecasts that luxury goods won’t be a bargain for long, however, as luxury brands are likely to increase their prices in reaction to the falling pound.

[Luxury goods brands] are not going to be happy to take an exchange loss in their British business,” says Wallace. “And what you’ll almost certainly see, if the pound stays low—which I think it will—is they’re going to gradually build in higher prices to compensate.”

Wallace predicts that luxury brands are likely to start building a price rise when the next new merchandise comes in, in around a year’s time. Wallace also predicts a further increase in the price of luxury goods in Britain, as the government looks for ways to increase revenues in the weakened economy. He suggests that raising VAT on luxury goods would be a politically popular way of doing that.

“If generally the economy is weaker, the government will take less in income tax, less in corporation tax. And they may have to cut corporation tax to try and keep business here,” explains Wallace. “So it’s very possible we could see an increase in VAT [for luxury goods].”

Source:  JWT Intelligence

How Loyal Are ‘Sharing Economy’ Customers?

sharing economy

Research from YouGov shows that customers of ‘Sharing Economy’ brands such as Uber and Airbnb, are more open to new ideas and experiences, but this openness presents it’s own challenges.

 As more consumers turn to collaborative consumption, renting out anything from cars and bicycles to homes and Wi-Fi with peer to peer review systems, the sharing economy movement is growing both in terms of public awareness and government acceptance.

Although most users are young people in big cities, some brands have successfully disrupted entire industries, with Airbnb now reporting 90 million users in 34,000 cities and Uber claiming to average one million rides per day. It’s clear that these brands have the potential to permanently alter the world and become prevailing features of the economy, but new research from YouGov shows that these new giants don’t come without vulnerabilities in their customer base.

The data reveals that people who have used either Uber, Airbnb or Lyft within the past 90 days are far more open to risk and adventure than the general public. They also have a stronger penchant for seeking out new challenges and surrounding themselves with diverse cultures and ideas – perhaps explaining why they became users in the first place.

sharing economy



With these tendencies, however, come certain stipulations, as a group defined by their openness to new ideas also exhibits less brand loyalty. The YouGov profiles show that sharing economy users were more likely than the average person to switch brands for speed and convenience, or to save money, even if it meant using an alternative to their favourite brand.

sharing economy


All in all the research demonstrates that while sharing economy brands have benefited from their users being quick to abandon convention, that means they won’t hesitate to try a competitor or new concept when one shows up.

Source:  YouGov


Austerity Fatigue

austerity fatigue

In the aftermath of the recession and years of poor economic performance, it is understandable that consumers have developed a more thoughtful approach to their buying habits, seeking out bargains and cutting spending across most categories. 

However, a new report by Mintel has highlighted tentative signs that consumers are starting throw caution to the wind and make more indulgent purchases.

Economic Conditions

The research by Mintel indicates that, while households continue to shrink in size, multi-generational households were the fastest growing family type between 2010 and 2015.  This is largely due to an accumulation of economic misfortunes which have put many traditional milestones out of reach of today’s young adults, including getting onto the property ladder. As a result, many young adults have been pushed back to living with their parents (if they ever left in the first place).

The ageing population has also put more pressure on public budgets, and while the economy grew by 2.2% in 2015, this growth has been driven by the services sector. Manufacturing and construction have struggled to keep up in recent years, sparking concerns about the overall balance of the UK economy.

The housing market, with 32 % of total spend, did experience a slow-down in 2015, due partly to would-be homebuyers being priced out of the market as well as the tighter lending criteria being implemented following the 2014 Mortgage Market Review.  Housing-related costs are also expected to rise steadily as mounting pressure on housing stock will push up house prices and rental costs.

But despite the economic conditions, total consumer expenditure increased by 1.7% in 2015, reaching £1,126 billion. Housing, transport and in-home food are the three largest sectors, accounting for 53% of overall spend.

Shopping Habits

Consumers in 2015 continued to look for the best deals, indicating that savvy shopping habits won’t be disappearing despite more confidence in the economy. With that said, discount hunting is starting to show signs of fatigue as consumers are bombarded with price promotions daily, leading some retailers to focus on everyday low price (EDLP) strategies instead.

A rapid fall in wholesale energy prices failed to trickle down to households in 2015, as utility costs actually increased for consumers. This led to half of consumers using price comparison sites to switch to a different gas/electricity supplier, demonstrating their price-sensitivity and appetite for better deals in the industry.

When it came to splashing out on indulgent purchases, fashion items became the ultimate treat, with many consumers expecting to find a bargain before making a purchase. Consumers are also relatively positive about spending on holidays, and short city breaks in the low seasons will be a key area for growth as multiple breaks throughout the year becomes the norm, particularly for millennials.

Outlook for 2020

Total consumer expenditure is expected to rise a further 16% over the next five years, with home & garden, personal finance, clothing and housing anticipated to perform well.

The ‘feel good factor’ of rising property values is contributing to homeowners willingness to renovate and decorate, along with a rise in spending power and low inflation. As a result, the home and garden sector is expected to lead recovery in consumer expenditure, with a projected of 25% by 2020.

On-going improvement in household finances will also continue to drive demands for many financial services, including credit, insurance, investments and financial planning.

Overall it is clear that higher-income Britons are pulling away from the rest, showing more willingness to spend across more indulgent categories, such as leisure, holidays, and food. And whilst consumers expect to see reduced prices in shops, widespread promotions are damaging brands’ reputations and profits. In 2016 the focus for brands should be on customer service and quality improvements, rather than trying to undercut competitors.

Source: Mintel ‘Growing Tired of Austerity – British Lifestyles 2016’


Is the customer always right?

two way rating

When an Uber driver can rate you as a passenger and an Airbnb host can leave feedback about you as a guest, are we moving away from the premise that the customer is always right?

Originally coined by Harry Gordon Selfridge in the 1900’s, the theory that ‘the customer is always right’ has been perpetuated by businesses as a way of persuading their employees to always give good service.

However, the growth of the sharing economy is changing all this as two-way rating becomes the norm within the peer-to-peer selling environment.

Typically, a peer-to-peer marketplace brings people and/or businesses together online to deal with each other directly without having to go through a middle man.  The origins can be traced back to websites like ebay, which has morphed into a $31 billion business with the ability to make or break a user’s reputation with its feedback system.

Just as ebayers with good feedback are seen as a safe bet, those with a poor rating are avoided like the plague and this feedback works equally for both buyers and sellers.

Changing Behaviours

Two-way rating has grown because it depends on an environment of mutual trust, which is a prerequisite of peer-to-peer selling.  It relies on both buyer and seller being honest with their feedback and how this feedback will in turn be used to the benefit of either party.

An observation levied at ebay in the early days was that the feedback was too positive to be believed, leading critics to suggest that users were too afraid of retaliatory feedback to post a negative comment against another user.  eBay view the consistently high ratings as a sign that their system is working well and that buyers and sellers are behaving honestly.

Regular users of Uber will know that anyone whose rating falls under 4.0 could find it difficult to get a ride home, but does this knowledge temper behaviour of Uber passengers?  Uber seem to think so, despite the fact that Uber don’t publish passenger ratings on the app for fear of reprisals against their drivers

Brand Advantage

Two-way rating is not just a growing trend for peer to peer selling, brands in many different sectors are looking at ways to rate their customers and use this to their advantage.

For example, insurance providers such as the AA and RAC use a black box, and Aviva has an app, which records how safe a driver is and leads to lower insurance premiums for the better drivers. Although this could work both ways and increase premiums for drivers who get a low safety score.

Why this matters

Just as it is now possible view aggregated customer reviews about brands, products, films, etc, it is predicted that within the next 5 years, the various customers’ ratings will also be able to be accessed as an aggregated score, similar to a credit rating.

This will allow brands to access a wide set of scores for any customer’s behaviour and target the best customers based on their activities.  Conversely, for the customer the appeal of being a 5 star customer will be heightened by the incentives offered to them by brands wishing to attract consumers who will potentially cause them the least problems