Consumer Insight Report - Redefining Luxury


Consumer Insight Report - Redefining Luxury

Sustainable is the new black

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The pandemic has given us plenty of time for reflection, and that includes thinking about the kind of world we want to live in going forward. Working from home for a large percentage of the population has meant moving away from spending time in busy city centres, and the chance to explore and fall in love with their local areas.

Interest in sustainability and reducing our carbon footprint has become much more mainstream than it was a few years ago, and we were curious to see just how much this sentiment has affected consumer behaviour, especially in the context of whether recent years have had an influence on what customers define as ‘luxury’. So, we’ve put it to our panel of mystery diners – and the results may surprise you.

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Effects of climate awareness on luxury

Almost half (47%) – a significant proportion – of consumers feel that being climate aware has influenced their perception of luxury.

Data shows that women feel this sentiment slightly more than men (49% v 42%).

Surprisingly, climate awareness seems to increase with age as only 39% of Gen-Z (18-25) say they’ve reconsidered luxury due to being climate aware, whilst that figure increases to 54% in those aged 56-65, and peaks at to 65% within the 66+ category.

Shopping for luxury goods now also comes with environmental remorse, as almost 4 in 5 consumers (77%) say excessive packaging adds an element of guilt, when buying goods; this rings true especially with people over 56, as 85% report feeling guilty about excessive packaging.

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Goods v Experiences

A vast majority of consumers would rather spend money on experiences (83%) rather than goods (17%) - excellent news for the hospitality industry!

Data shows respondents across all age groups think in similar terms, the only exceptions being consumers aged 46-55, who are below the median line, with 76% opting for experiences over goods, and those aged over 66, who overwhelmingly (92%) choose to spend on experiences.

From a gender perspective, women tend to value experiences slightly higher than men (respectively, 86% v 79%).

Formality v Informality

Traditionally, people imagine luxury being associated with aristocracy, or upper classes - servers in tuxes, gold-rimmed crockery, etc., whereas in recent decades, we’ve seen a shift in wealth and luxury being associated with much more informal elements. It’s hard not to picture a tech magnate in a t-shirt, jeans, and sneakers, right? Some luxury lifestyle brands (such as Soho House) have even gone so far as to actively ‘ban stuffiness’, with dress-codes that discourage wearing suits / business dress.

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But which do consumers see as the ‘hallmark of luxury’? The answer is, overwhelmingly, 68% of respondents crave informality (friendliness, warmth, and familiarity) in a luxury experience.

Interestingly, people aged 36-55 value ‘formal’ luxury slightly higher than other age groups, with 39% favouring this, in contrast to the average of 32% across all ages. The biggest enthusiasts of ‘informal’ luxury, surprisingly, are aged 56-65, with 78% of the respondents indicating this as their preference.

There is little difference from a gender perspective, with women being slightly more likely to favour ‘informal’ luxury than men (respectively, 69% vs 66%).

Most sought after: groceries

If money and location convenience were no object, more than a third of consumers (36%) would choose to get groceries from their local farm shop, which, very surprisingly, is higher than the percentage of those who would choose to shop at a premium grocery store, such as Waitrose or M&S (32%) – which some might consider the pinnacle of grocery shopping.

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Almost 1 in 5 consumers (19%) would opt for a premium organic farm shop brand, such as Riverford or Daylesford, and, of course, there are those who like to stick with their tried and tested favourites: 13% of respondents would choose a mid-level grocery store, such as Sainsbury’s or Tesco.

A demographic analysis shows that the biggest advocates for local farm shops are those aged 26-45, as 41% of respondents indicated this as their preference. There was also a larger prevalence to prefer luxury organic farm brands within the 26-45 age group, in contrast to other age groups, as premium organic farm brands were chosen by almost a quarter (24% v 19% average).

Consumers from all other age groups (apart from 26-45) displayed a tendency to favour premium supermarket brands, especially the 66+ age group, in which half (50%) consumers chose premium brands as their favourite.

The biggest support for mid-level supermarkets was from consumers within the 56-65 age group at 20% (v average of 13%), and the ones most likely to shun mid-level supermarkets were the in the 66+ age category, where only 4% indicated these as their preference.

From a gender perspective, surprisingly, the responses vary by only a few percent. Women are more likely to prefer local farm shops and premium organic farm shop brands, whereas men are more likely to favour premium grocery store brands.

Most sought after: food experience

With food experiences, consumer preferences are much more clear cut than it is with their shopping preferences. If money were no object, the vast majority (70%) would treat themselves to a 7-course Michelin star restaurant experience, however, nearly a quarter (22%) would opt to go to their local independent pub or restaurant. It would be very interesting to know what that breakdown would have looked like pre-pandemic!

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5% say they would choose either a high-street favourite (like Nando’s / Prezzo, etc.) or an upmarket pub / bar (such as Brewdog), and 3% would choose a street market or food court experience (e.g. Borough Market / Street Feast).

It gets more interesting with the demographic analysis: Gen-Z (18-25) are least interested in the Michelin experience, with only 50% selected this as their preference, which is quite a lot below the average across age groups (68%).

People aged 35-45 are most likely to opt for a Michelin treat, as that figure reaches 82% within the age group. Conversely, because people within the 36-45 age group are favouring Michelin restaurants so highly, they have the lowest percentage of people choosing a local pub or restaurant (10%). All the other age groups are closer to the average percentage of 24%, and local venues are, in particular, favoured within the 56-65 category, where that figure reaches almost a third (29%) of the responses.

Though figures show there's relatively low interest in high street favourites, pub brands and street food markets, if money were no object - but or Gen-Z respondents buck the trend, as 11% prefer high street favourites, and another 11% favour street markets, much higher interest than in any other age groups (the average is respectively 5% and 3%).

Most sought after: overnight experience

When if comes to accommodation, it seems that consumers are still more likely to embrace traditional luxury: half (50%) of the consumers would prefer an overnight stay at a 5-star hotel or resort; almost a quarter (24%) would choose staying at a luxurious country inn. A tenth (10%) would opt for a cottage rental, and only 8% would prefer to either stay at an ultramodern aparthotel, or to go glamping.

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The 46-55 age group are particularly fond (59%) of 5-star hotels, and surprisingly, the 56-65 are group are least likely to select a 5-star hotel (39%); they are much more likely to opt for a luxurious country inn (34%) instead, in contrast to other age groups.

People in the 66+ category are also very fond of country inn stays (35%), and also like the idea of a 5-star hotel (54%), but categorically refuse to go glamping. People aged 18-45 have very similar tastes, much in line with the average results, however, Gen-Z respondents are slightly more inclined to go glamping (17% v average of 8%) than the rest.

Gender comparison is quite revealing: women are more likely to prefer 5-star hotels than men (53% v 40%), whereas men have a higher likelihood than women in opting for a modern aparthotel (13% v 6%) or a cottage rental (13% vs 9%).

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Perceived Covid Safety

We have been keeping track how safe our panel of consumers feel at the idea of going out into hospitality venues, and the most recent results show that despite UK Covid case numbers going up, consumers confidence is the highest it’s been since tracking began a year ago. The average safety score is now 8.34 out of 10. This figure was 7.9 in September, 7.19 in July, and has been slowly increasing since October 2020, when that number was only 7.07.

Confidence is highest within the Gen-Z age group (8.78), and lowest with people over 66 (7.92); from a gender perspective, women are slightly more risk-averse than men (respectively 8.27 v 8.57).


Sustainability is becoming increasingly important to consumers, and climate awareness is already having an effect on what people perceive to be luxury (or what they choose to spend on). We can already see an impact on the grocery sector, where people are more likely to opt for a local farm shop, rather than the premium supermarket. With hospitality, sustainability could become a key differentiator and selling point for brands, as people make choices more carefully, but for now, consumers are happy to pursue traditional luxury experiences, such as Michelin star restaurants and 5-star hotels.

Consumers are experiencing a certain element of guilt associated with excessive packaging, when it comes to buying goods, and this may have had an impact on why customers (especially in older age groups) choose to spend on experiences. Hopefully this will result in an increase in revenue within the sector, as hospitality takes a bigger share of consumer disposable income.

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