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Price vs. value: how are retailers faring in the crisis?

Julie Vigne Senior Research Director 30 March 2023
We recently launched BrandVue’s Most Loved Retail Brands 2023 report, providing insight into which retailers UK adults have the closest emotional connection with.

Drawing on findings from the report, we delve into the supermarket sector, taking a look at how the key players are remaining front of mind (and heart) for consumers while battling the current economic climate.

As we’ve seen in previous years, Brand Love within the retail sector is strongly linked to ubiquitous availability and market leadership.

Demonstrated by the number of supermarkets featuring in our top 10 this year, retailers which form part of our everyday lives are often those we have the strongest attachment to.

However, as consumers have been forced to find ways to cope with the pressures of the cost-of-living crisis, we’ve seen some interesting changes in which supermarkets are loved the most…

This year, Aldi has stolen 3rd place from M&S Simply Food, while Lidl has made it into the top 10 for the first time since we launched the league table in 2020. Both brands have also increased their market share since last year, illustrating their growing Brand Love is converting to sales.

Of course, the cost-of-living crisis and a much stronger focus on price are driving this increase in Brand Love. But it isn’t just about low prices, as demonstrated by brands like Wilko and Savers falling down the league table.

What really matters to consumers this year is good value, an area where Aldi and Lidl excel.

Both brands have been sure to focus advertising efforts on quality, not just affordable prices with an impressive range of special buys and premium own-brand products to match.

Initiatives such as Tesco’s Aldi Price Match and Sainsbury’s price lock, are helping these brands maintain relatively stable Brand Love scores.

In contrast, Brand Love for Waitrose and Morrisons is weakening. Both retailers are struggling to compete with competitors on price and are not differentiated enough on other metrics to shine on value.

Although, both brands did however recently announce plans to reduce the prices of hundreds of items in their value ranges – perhaps this will help the brands reclaim some of their lost love.

Since consumers’ focus is very much on cutting costs in the current climate, particularly on everyday essentials, it is not surprising that we’ve seen this degree of volatility in Brand Love scores across the sector.

To win the battle for affection of UK shoppers, supermarkets will need to clearly communicate what they stand for and demonstrate how they will deliver value to their customers in a way that is both distinctive and relatable.

Looking beyond the grocery sector, home and lifestyle has seen some of the biggest changes in rankings across the league table.

This is a trend we observed last year and, as we noted at the time, has undoubtedly been influenced by the rise in home-working and periods of time consumers are now spending at home.

Brands that stand out this year are ProCook, Habitat, Homesense, Simba, Maison du Monde and Dunelm, but of particular note is The White Company, climbing 21 places since 2022.

Given the brand’s more premium positioning, this may feel surprising during a time of economic uncertainty. So, what’s the secret formula?

Is this because their customers are more insulated and yet to be impacted by the rising cost of living? Partly, yes. It’s amongst those that claim to not be cutting back on spending, where we see the largest increases in Brand Love but not the only increases. Brand Love for The White Company has improved across all consumer groups, even those who report actively cutting back.

Although The White Company isn’t exactly budget friendly, the brand is very effective in conveying the quality of its products. Its messaging communicates ‘simple pleasures’ and ‘everyday’ items that are ‘built to last’; further emphasising that you don’t need to be a budget brand to enjoy success during a recession.

On its result in the ranking, Mary Homer, Chief Executive at The White Company comments:

A brand needs a clear vision, purpose, USP and a place in the market. It is crowded and noisy today.

“Put the customer experience at every touchpoint and at the heart of all your decision-making. We have invested in qualitative, in-depth research, which has informed our approach.

“Building an emotional connection with your customer and having a product and service that doesn’t disappoint is key.”

It will be interesting to see how retailers continue to perform over the course of a challenging year but if these results tell us anything, it’s that low price alone is not a guarantee of success.

BrandVue’s Most Loved Retail Brands 2023

Our latest BrandVue Retail report is a recognition  and celebration of the most emotively connected retail brands in 2023.

The research uses BrandVue, Savanta’s daily brand tracking tool, to draw insight from over 96,000 consumers across the UK’s top 200+ retail brands and then rates the top 100 brands according to how loved they are by the public.

To see which brands made it to the Top 100 league table, as well as more retail trends and insights, download the free report here.

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