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The changing C2DE consumer

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Building and retaining customer loyalty can be particularly important for companies during periods of economic difficulty. While many companies aiming at ABC1 consumers are focusing on their ethical and environmental credentials in order to build loyalty, for those organisations with a consumer base more centred on C2DEs building trust through customer participation will be fundamental. Market intelligence provider Key Note's new Market Assessment - C2DE Consumer - examines the attitudes and buying behaviour of C2DE consumers in the context of four product areas: food, homes, clothes and personal care, and leisure and travel. It also analyses how companies that target these consumers have been responding to the financial crisis.

The proportion of C2DEs in the population has been falling; C2DEs represented 50.3% of all adults in Great Britain in the year ending March 2000, but only 44.2% by the year ending September 2009. Of these, the D and E groups (representing unskilled manual workers and those on state benefits) underwent the largest decrease. This change in the population profile has emerged for a variety of reasons, including the decline of the manufacturing industry, accompanied by an increased emphasis on the service sector and the 'knowledge economy'. Simultaneously, the growth of higher education has meant that more young people from C2DE backgrounds are acquiring degrees and finding employment in white-collar occupations.

Since the late 1990s, there have been several changes in the clothes-buying habits of the UK consumer. This has included the 'democratisation' of fashion, with the appeal of high-street discount fashion outlets widening to include middle-class shoppers in addition to their traditional C2DE customer base.

Furthermore, the major supermarket chains have become a significant part of the clothing market as well as many other non-food areas. Key Note's research* found that a considerably higher proportion of C2DEs than ABC1s buy clothes from supermarkets: 56.9% of C2DE consumers compared with 46.3% of ABC1 consumers do so.

Key Note's research also suggests that there may be a growing sophistication among C2DE consumers in terms of their holiday habits, with the proportion saying that they try to avoid highly commercialised areas on holiday increasing since 2005. In the 2010 survey, C2DEs in the 45 to 54 age range were the most demanding in this respect, with 70.8% doing their best avoid to the commercialised 'hot spots' and 48.8% saying that they found it hard to find 'special' destinations. However, confidence in making independent travel arrangements seems to be declining, with the percentage saying that they prefer to do this rather than using a travel agent lower in 2010 than in 2008.

While it is difficult to predict the impact the upcoming Government spending review will have on C2DE consumers, all are likely to suffer to some extent and there will be tough times ahead for C2DEs. Key Note believes that corporate strategy in response to this will focus on building trust through customer participation. There will certainly be more initiatives enabling customers to have their say on the items stocked, and the service they receive, helping to foster customer loyalty by making them feel part of the organisation.

Press enquiries: Lisa Ivey at Key Note at or 0845-504 0452. Press/review copies of the report are available on request.

Notes to editors:

* Exclusive consumer research was commissioned by Key Note for this report and was conducted by NEMS Market Research in May 2010 among a representative sample of 2,000 adults aged 16 and over in Great Britain, 1,084 of whom were in the C2DE social grades.

Key Note's 2010 Market Assessment, C2DE Consumer, examines how companies that target the C2DE consumer have been responding to the economic crisis, and looks at the attitudes and behaviour of the C2DE consumers themselves. It focuses on four product areas: food, homes, clothes and personal care, and leisure and travel.

Key Note Ltd has been providing commercially relevant market information to libraries, academia and businesses for almost 30 years. With over 1,000 titles available across 30 market sectors, and new or updated titles published every week, Key Note is one of the UK's most prolific and respected business information providers. Within the range, some reports are written in response to particular market conditions, whereas other reports will be produced regularly year on year.

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