While the recent economic climate has resulted in many reports of consumer pessimism on life opportunities, new research from Mintel reveals that in 2014, this may not necessarily be the case for many consumers. Indeed, encouragingly, Mintel’s flagship report British Lifestyles reveals that over eight in ten (83%) consumers believe they have had at least as many (56%) or more (27%) opportunities in life compared with the average Brit.

London tops the regions for sentiment about life opportunities – more than one in three (34%) Londoners believe they have had more opportunities than average. By contrast, those Brits living in the South West and Wales and East and West Midlands are feeling the least fortunate – less than a quarter (23%) of consumers living there believe they have had more opportunities in life than the average Brit. This compares to 30% in the North West, 27% in the North and Scotland and 26% for the South East and East Anglia and Yorkshire and Humberside respectively. And it seems the nation’s men are feeling slightly more fortunate when it comes to opportunities – some 30% of British men claiming that they have had more opportunities than the average Brit compared to a quarter (24%) of women.

By age, Brits aged 65 and over believe they are the most fortunate in terms of opportunities (38%) along with those aged 16 to 24 (35%), whilst 45 to 54 year olds believe they are the least fortunate – just 17% of these Brits claim they have had more opportunities than the average Brit.

Ina Mitskavets, Senior Lifestyles Analyst at Mintel, said:

“While London tops the tables for consumer optimism, the other regions of the UK are not that far behind. After recent years of financial pressures, where the nation has focussed on their finances and debts, Brits have emerged on the other side of the downturn with a new outlook on life. Interestingly, despite the widely-held view that life is tougher for today’s younger consumers, they report the highest satisfaction with their finances and standard of living, a view similar to the oldest consumers. However, owing to limited finances, both young and old have learned how to live within their means, which has a knock-on effect on their expectations.”

Further highlighting the positives of the recent year, over one in five (21%) Brits claim that their relationship with their family has changed for the better – and around the same number (19%) believe that their career has improved. What is more, one in five (18%) say that both their life satisfaction and their outlook for the future have changed for the better. Today, half (47%) of all Brits think their standard of living is better than their parents was at their age, three in ten (30%) believe it is the same, and just a quarter (23%) think it is worse. By region, those living in Yorkshire and the Humberside (51%) are feeling the most satisfied about their life in comparison to their parents, compared to just 42% of Londoners.

As the recovery continues to gain force, Mintel’s research also finds that pent-up demand for many discretionary areas of spend is being released during 2014. Brits are increasingly taking more care of their physical and emotional wellbeing and when asked about goals which would definitely be achieved in 2014, the top 5 priorities were – 1. Spending more time with the family (43%), 2. Getting household finances in order (38%) 3. A healthier diet (37%) 4. Exercising more (37%) and 5. A better work life balance (32%). Brits were also asked to list goals they would like to achieve but may not achieve – these priorities included 1. A healthier work life balance (44%), 2. Travelling to new places or going on more holidays (43%), 3. Exercising more (40%), 4. A Healthier diet (39%) and 5. Learning a new skill/getting a new hobby 39%.

“Post recession paints a new outlook on life with a new set of priorities as British consumers take care of themselves and their families. During the recession, many Brits lost touch with a variety of aspects of their life while they focussed on the economy, this year British consumers are re-prioritising their spend. Indeed, while getting finances in order remains a key priority, consumers are now starting to prioritise their physical and emotional wellbeing, which spans taking care of their nutrition, doing more exercise and nurturing close relationships.” Ina continues.

Finally, while the charitable intent of the young is often underestimated – British Lifestyles finds young adults have become more charitable, with two-thirds (66%) of 16-24-year-olds planning to donate to charities or volunteer in 2014, compared with just under half of the over-55s (47%). The increasing ease of making donations via social media and mobile apps has likely contributed to the rise in charitable instinct amongst Millennials. Overall, almost a quarter of Brits (22%) say they will definitely give to charity or volunteer in 2014.

Of the 16 markets covered by Mintel’s British Lifestyles report, highlights include:

Food: It’s a wrap for the bread sector

In-home food sales saw slight growth in 2013, with inflation continuing to drive the market and add value growth. Last year we spent £76.6 billion on in-home food. Bread rolls (up 6% between 2012 and 2013), wraps (up 15.5% between 2012 and 2013) and pittas (up 6.5% between 2012 and 2013) have experienced strong sales, largely at the expense of pre-packed bread (up just 2.1% between 2012 and 2013). Meanwhile, various continental and blue cheeses (up 14.1% between 2012 and 2013) are performing well, while sales of cheddar cheese have been static (up just 0.2% year on year), indicating that a preference for stronger flavours is driving mainstream interest in these still small cheese types.

Home baking products are continuing to benefit from Britons’ have-a-go attitude in the kitchen, with the market expected to reach almost £2 billion by the end of 2014. In contrast, frozen ready meals saw an almost 10% drop in value and volume sales over 2013, a decline that is expected to continue. The horsemeat incident of early 2013 is likely to have further alienated lucrative (and growing) user groups such as over-55s and ABs, who are less likely than average to buy frozen ready meals.

Holidays: Brits set to go far and away

While staycations have been in vogue in recent years, now consumers are feeling more confident about their financial situation they are set to spread their wings further afield. Demand for holidays is robust in the consciousness of the UK consumer and even those who are less affluent or struggling financially are very likely to have taken a holiday in 2013. UK consumers spent £37.1 billion on holidays in both the UK and abroad in 2013, surpassing the pre-crash peak of £36.4 billion in 2008. Spending overseas grew 8.4% in 2013, while expenditure in the UK fell 2.4% signalling the end of the staycation boom years.

Proving the importance of holidays – almost a quarter (22%) of Brits say they would take a holiday at least once a year, regardless of their financial situation. Some 57% of people struggling financially have taken a holiday in the past year – 29% have travelled abroad and 18% have spent over £1,000.

Over the next five years, Mintel expects that growth in the value of the overseas holiday market will be more than double the growth expected from the domestic market, as holidaymakers return overseas. A strong performance from the overseas market will be driven by a lower financial barrier to entry, as increased competition in the airline market drives down the cost of airfares.

Homes and Gardens: Prepared for the upturn

For several post credit-crunch years we have put spending on our homes and gardens on the back burner, especially when it comes to big ticket items or room makeovers. But now that people are feeling better about their finances things are changing. Mintel forecasts the value of the home and garden market to grow by 16% between 2013 and 2018, when it will be worth a spectacular £43.8 billion, as the economic recovery gathers pace, the housing market picks up and consumers feel more confident about spending. It seems we are also spending more on beds (up 2.1% on 2012 to reach £2.4 billion in 2013) but dining room future prospects have worsened (sales of dining room furniture decreased 5% between 2012 and 2013 and have remained static since at £534 million in 2013). Meanwhile, sales of carpets and floorcoverings will continue to gather pace – spend rose to £3.3 billion during 2012, a rise of 6.5% on 2011 levels.

Leisure and Entertainment: Gambling – a safe bet

The leisure and entertainment sector has shown good growth in the past five years – last year we spent £26.25 billion enjoying ourselves. The biggest influence on the value of the leisure and entertainment sector has been the strong growth demonstrated by the gambling sector, which accounted for 43% of total sector value in 2013. This has been driven almost entirely by the development of online gaming, ranging from betting to bingo, poker and other casino table games. Increased ownership of mobile devices and growth of sports betting have increased market value. As a result, the gambling sector has grown by 25% between 2008 and 2013. A quarter (25%) of adults aged 18 and over have gambled online in the past year, while a further 3% have not done so yet but would be interested in doing so.

The tenpin bowling sector returned to modest growth during 2013 – (the UK tenpin bowling market was worth £219 million in 2013 up by £2 million from 2012). However, spending on private health and fitness clubs is likely to remain relatively depressed (valued at £2.7 billion in 2013 – the market remaining stagnant between 2012 and 2013) with most of the growth occurring at the budget end of the market in 2014. The nightclubs sector is still suffering from the combined effects of high unemployment and competition from late night pubs/bars – sales of nightclubs decreased 7% between 2012 and 2013 to a value of £1.3 billion in 2013.

Mintel’s British Lifestyles 2014 report also covers the following sectors in detail: in home food, out of home (eating and non-alcoholic drinks), non-alcoholic drinks, alcoholic drinks, beauty & healthcare, clothing, OTC & pharmaceuticals, household care, technology & communications, leisure & entertainment, home & garden and transport.

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