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The New Rebellious Shoppers 2005-03-23

Posted by clype in Statistics.

They favour the local grocery store over the soul-less supermarket and the smile of the bank clerk over the impersonal directness of the call centre — the new breed of ‘rebellious consumer’ wants a return to the personal service of the past.

The latest ‘British Lifestyle Report’ by ‘Mintel’, the market research company, has identified a type of consumer that is irritated by call centres, internet banking and supermarket chains.

  • The rebellious consumer is a rugged individualist who shuns the package holiday, preferring to arrange his own place in the sun, and is not afraid to embrace a natural alternative to conventional medicine. While his or her fellow consumers embrace the latest gadgets such as iPods or camera phones, the rebellious consumer’s attitude is not ‘must have’ but ‘don’t need’.

Life in the 21st century has become too faceless for these people, who desire the personal service and professionalism of a bygone age. The report, which was compiled after interviews with over 1_500 people, discovered that in six key areas —

  • finance,
  • technology,
  • food,
  • going out,
  • travel and
  • health

— a number of consumers are actively rebelling against the direction in which the modern market is pushing them. In finance they are angry at the closure of local branches of banks; and a surprising 52 per cent find automated systems and call centres infuriating. In deciding which bank to choose, 41 per cent base their decision not on interest rates or the variety of services but on locality. Mr.Paul Rickard, director of research at ‘Mintel’ explained:

‘This re-inforces the point that many people would still rather actually go into a branch as opposed to carrying out their transactions remotely, either on the Internet or on the telephone. Many customers seem loath to adopt the banking methods being introduced and enforced in the market today.’

‘Mintel’ also discovered that the lack of face-to-face contact in modern banking has damaged the trusting relationships built over the years between banks and their customers. In terms of new technology , many consumers have reached a saturation point with just 10 per cent of adults feeling that they need to ‘keep up with the latest technology’. Despite the ubiquity of mobile phones — 80 per cent of the population now owns one — just 26 per cent believe they could not live without one.

‘One reason for this apparent disenchantment with product innovation may be that they are becoming more “savvy” and less willing to accept what they are being told by marketers and advertisers’, said Mr.Rickard.

‘It seems that many people are rebelling against the pressure to displace perfectly functional and efficient ways of doing things with seemingly complex advancements.’

It is also apparent that some British shoppers are adopting a more traditional approach to buying their groceries. While 64 per cent of adults insist they only shop at supermarkets which offer good quality, fresh food, 36 per cent avoid supermarkets and prefer to support their local traders. The same attitude is seen with regard to Britain’s social scene. Chain pubs may dominate our high streets, but 48 per cent of people still favour their traditional pub. Mr.Alasdair Bell, who runs ‘Bidecom’, an internet-based company from Edinburgh, is a proud rebellious consumer.

‘My friends and I are known as the EH3s because we never go outside our postcode. It must be ten years since I’ve been to a bar in town.’

When it comes to travel, 34 per cent of adults now journey independent of travel agents or the package tour, with the Internet their principal research tool. Even the traditional resorts are being ignored by 18 per cent in favour of destinations off the beaten track, while 23 per cent now make a conscious effort to learn about the local culture. Among the most interesting aspects of the rebellious consumer is his or her willingness to embrace alternative medicines. Since 1999 the use of complementary medicine has risen by 45 per cent , while today 11 per cent of the population prefer alternative medicine to more traditional approaches. Mr.Graeme Millar , chairman of ‘The Scottish Consumer Council’, felt this new brand of consumer was far from being the majority and would pay a price for their rebellion:

‘There is nothing really rebellious about choosing the comfort and convenience of using local shops and services. ‘However, there is usually a price to pay in higher costs. The trends of recent years in out-of-town shopping and selling on the Internet are also restricting the choices that are open to such consumers’, he said.


Ms.Fiona Buchanan recognises herself as a rebellious consumer — she has her bank manager’s mobile number, she prefers good food from small shops to ready meals from supermarkets and she uses the Internet only when it suits her. Happy to see the personal touch is still alive in her local branch, Ms.Buchanan said:

‘I’m in the bank every day. I get on really well with the staff and we have a good laugh.

‘My bank manager is great too, not distant like managers are made out to be. He’s even called me up at a quarter to nine at night because he’s been working with me on business proposals.’

‘I’ve never used Internet banking and I don’t think I ever will.

‘The only time when I could sit down to use it would be at night, and then if I’m tired and make a mistake and something goes wrong it would be a disaster.’

She is keen to use the Internet — but only if it saves her time:

‘If I was planning a long trip then I’d use a local travel agent but I’ll book tickets online for travelling to Edinburgh.’

After finding it hard to get her hands on good food, Ms.Buchanan took the unusual step of opening her own shop in Glasgow. Four years later, ‘Heart Buchanan’ is a thriving deli and she thinks her shop has definitely benefited from other rebellious consumers abandoning the supermarkets in favour of smaller shops. She is also aware of the popularity of traditional pubs over the chains of wine bars. Ms.Buchanan said:

‘It’s definitely in the detail that pubs win. It’s all to do with the person behind the bar. I learned that while I was working as a barmaid.’

The rise of alternative medicine also comes as no surprise. She said:

‘I’m seeing it more and more, when customers come in looking for herbal teas and roots.’


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