Walpole Insights | The transformation of luxury adoption for brands and consumers in 2021 by William Grant & Sons

In today’s Insight, Walpole member William Grant & Sons takes an in-depth look into the UK drinks industry, as well as analysing the key consumer trends which are set to influence the luxury sector in this year and beyond.

The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated consumer habits and brand adjustments, highlighting a shift and decentralisation of luxury – meaning luxury brands and experiences are more accessible than ever, at a time when people are staying at home.

Despite a decrease in consumer spending caused by the global pandemic, the William Grant & Sons Trending 2021 Report indicates a widespread adoption of elevated brand experiences and a considered approach to indulgent spending.

Click here to read this report. A paper looking at the luxury market as part of Trending 2021 is also available to download here: WGS Report: Luxury Chapter

With radical shifts in routine and work patterns, decreased social spheres, and the increased adoption of ‘local’ values and commerce, people now expect individualised luxury experiences at their fingertips. Brands who realise this opportunity will take the advantage, with greater reach into new markets, the report reveals, with the rapid manifestation of luxury sub-trends highlighted:

Fewer, more meaningful connections

Non-essential workers have stayed at home, and urban consumers have retreated further from day-to-day life in the city. Away from expected lifestyle comforts, their social circles and spheres of influence have shrunk to a community level. The limited time spent with friends and family has become incredibly valuable, meaning the opportunity for brand engagement has lessened and only well-targeted brand interactions will succeed. This has accelerated the home premium category, as well as the development of innovative solutions to reach people seeking luxury experiences in their own homes.

Individualised, immersive and innovative digital experiences

Luxury consumers are prioritising their health and that of others, so are unlikely to rush back to cities until ‘normal life’ is within grasp. However, this paves the way for shareable, virtual experiences for people to enjoy within their communities. Brands providing gateways, products and entertainment to reach individuals at home will continue to add considerable value to lives, creating genuine brand engagement at a local, community level rather than through city-centric activity. Unsurprisingly, digital commerce (including social and voice commerce) continues to be the fastest growing channel in the UK (+79.7% YoY), amplified as a result of the pandemic.

Conscious living choices with tangible benefits

In 2018 William Grant & Sons identified the ‘Active-ist Consumer’ and have seen this type of consumer rise further, with conscious, community-minded choices of those who champion sustainability, community and buying small and local. This has resulted in a rise of ‘local heroes’, with a sense of collective responsibility, those who choose to circulate wealth within their local communities and place greater emphasis on emerging brands. Against established players, new brands must meet, and often exceed consumer expectations, while showcasing the same level of innovation, convenience and benefit.

Self-actualisation influencing long-term shifts in purchasing decisions

The pandemic has been a shared, democratising experience for all. Regardless of pre-existing social structures, everyone has been subject to restricted movement and time to reflect and get in touch with ‘who they are’. Accelerated by social media, purchase habits are no longer necessarily based on what someone can afford but reflect who they perceive themselves to be. Personalisation rose years ago, but true product and experience customisation grows more pertinent every year. Self-expression is now seen as a critical topic for consumers, with 94% believing it is important to ‘feel comfortable to express who you are in your personal life.’

The report further provides an In-depth analysis of key spirits categories and performance across the on and off-trade, with key findings including:

-The GB Beer, Wine and Spirits (BWS) sector is worth £37.2 billion, down -35.4%.

The top five spirits category by value are:

Non-Flavoured Vodka, Non-Flavoured Gin, Blended Scotch, Flavoured Gin and Non-Cream Liqueurs.

The spirits section is worth £9.9 billion, down -16.0% driven by lockdown and the closure of bars and restaurants between April and July.

However this hasn’t stopped consumers shifting their alcohol spend to the Off Trade (including retailers, supermarkets and convenience stores)

Total Spirits in the Off Trade is now worth £5.3 billion, an increase of 12.0%

Premium Spirits account for 7.3% of value growth in the Off Trade, adding £41.5 million to the category

Categories seeing strong value growth in the Off Trade include flavoured categories: Flavoured Vodka (+22%), Flavoured Gin (+32%) and Flavoured/Spiced Rum (+36%)

Also performing well are other emerging categories, including Tequila (+45%), Irish Whiskey (+25%) and Low/No Alcohol Spirits (+26%).

Click here to read this report. A paper looking at the luxury market as part of Trending 2021 is also available to download here: WGS Report: Luxury Chapter
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