Women spending less on clothing as cost of living has disproportionate impact on finances

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The cost of living crisis is having a disproportionately negative financial impact on women, reveals new research by market analyst Mintel.

Its 2023 British Lifestyles report shows that almost half of women (45 per cent) feel financially worse off compared to a year ago compared to just 35 per cent of men.

This greater financial concern has led to a particularly cautious approach to spending over the past year. For example, 46 per cent of women have cut back spending on clothing and accessories compared to 33 per cent of men. Concern is also driving a more cautious approach toward future spending as half of women (51 per cent) expect to cut back on non-essential spending in response to rising prices compared to 39 per cent of men.

Overall, Mintel estimates that total annual consumer expenditure will grow by 6.5 per cent to reach £1.73 trillion in 2023. However, much of the growth is driven by rising prices. This compares to 15 per cent record growth between 2021-22.

Despite the squeeze on income, holidays are the nation’s number one discretionary spending priority. A third of Brits (32 per cent) say they would most want to continue to spend on holidays even if they had to cut their overall spending.  The value of the holiday market will exceed 2023’s pre-pandemic level, with the industry set to fully recover from the impact of covid-19. In 2023, the amount spent on these trips is set to rise by 13 per cent annually to reach £63 billion.

Francesca Smith, senior consumer and lifestyles analyst, comments: “While few have escaped the severe impact of the cost of living crisis, women appear to be paying a higher price. They are more likely to be in insecure or part-time employment, typically earn less money and bear a more significant burden of unpaid care work, leaving them more exposed to tougher economic conditions. The past 18 months have placed additional pressure on women’s finances. They are feeling worse off and more nervous for the year ahead.”

Rising trends

Repair and refurbish

“Brits continue to look at ways to combine value and sustainability, leading to a steady growth in the refurbished technology market. In 2023, one in five Brits (19 per cent) said they were more likely to buy second-hand technology as a result of the cost of living crisis.  There is a definite risk to brand perception if a device cannot easily be repaired and has to be discarded before the user feels they have been using it long enough. 

“Beyond technology, there’s also growing demand for clothing retailers to offer repair services in their stores, and we are seeing more companies adding this service. Offering additional services such as alterations and repairs is a key way for brands to appeal to savvy shoppers, with 42 [er cemt of women’s clothes buyers having repaired clothes over the past year.”

Eating habits

“Consumers have significantly reduced the frequency of their food delivery/takeaway orders: just a quarter of Brits are ordering home delivery or takeaway once a week or more in 2023, compared to 30 per cent in 2021. Cash-strapped Brits are looking for more special out-of-home experiences or meals prepared at home to save money. Rising costs and relentless consumer demand for free delivery and meal deals mean many delivery operators in this sector will have to work harder to maintain trading levels and protect their profit margins.

“Instead, Brits are increasingly turning to ready-to-cook meals, with sales set to increase by 41 per cent between 2022-23 to reach an estimated £301 million. Similarly, frozen ready meals are expected to grow 16.5 per cent between 2022-3 to reach an estimated £649 million.”

It’s a dupe

“Dupe culture is prominent within the beauty and personal care market, with copycat products often going viral on TikTok and other social media platforms. Young women are well-versed in spotting and promoting dupes and believe quality does not have to be sacrificed for a lower price. Seven in ten women (69 per cent) who use makeup have either used or are interested in trying cheaper versions/copies of premium makeup products. Own-label brands in other consumer categories, such as household, healthcare, food and drink, are well-positioned to explore the possibility of dupes. Prestige brands will need to prove the value and quality of their products to combat the threat of dupe innovations.”