UK Shoppers Spend One Billion Pounds Less on Clothing

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Minimalism is hitting the UK, with Millennials spending in excess of One Billion Pounds less on clothing last year. With firms such as M&S, French Connection failing to turn a profit and High Street stalwart Jaegar going into administration – it really seems that the tide is beginning to turn. Fashion is just not in fashion any longer!

So what exactly are UK shoppers spending their money on instead? The answer is experiences. The High Street chains are now getting in on the act aiming to flood you with a choice of ‘shopping experiences’; with nail bars popping up in Superdrug. Mintel reports that people are spending much more money on going out and eating out. Retailers are looking for ways to encourage people to come into their physical stores, since the explosion of online shopping. Each is looking to create a unique shopping environment, to encourage you to part with your cash.

Next are planning to incorporate florists within their stores, along with upmarket restaurants and a Prosecco Bar. River Island has a style studio, complete with a personal shopper. They will whisk you into a VIP area, ply you with Prosecco and then you’ll get to try on lots of personally recommended products. Trainer retailer Superga has introduced artists into store, so that you can select a trainer and have the artist paint it for you. Topshop have employed virtual reality in their stores, to take things to a whole new dimension. Their Oxford Street store has recently had a virtual water slide installed which includes a virtual whale – the experience is called ‘Splash’! Along with pumping the smell of suncream into the air. It’s all to promote their swimwear range.

Oasis have ‘Saucer and Spritz’ cafes in some stores now; offering cake, champagne, cocktails, afternoon tea and Unicorn Toast (no I don’t know what that is either!?!) Activewear brand Sweaty Betty offers free in-store exercise classes. Beware though – obviously these brands still want to actually sell you stuff. These exercise classes will not only take place in-store, so everywhere you look, you will be exposed to temptation. But the instructors will not only be looking svelte and toned; they will of course be clad from head to toe in Sweaty Betty! These are the new lifestyle ambassadors, also put forward through online associations with lifestyle bloggers. All in a bid to help push their stuff.

What do you think of this change? I have mixed feelings about it because I know there is an underlying motive. However, it does at least encourage people to acquire less (in part anyway, depending on the store). I guess I’d just rather see people using their spare cash to more profitable ends, like building community and helping those in need.

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Are you a Home Bargains shopper?

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No? You should be! My shopping habits have been revolutionised since they opened up a store near me. They sell everything from stationary, to groceries, toiletries, toys, cleaning products, hardware, home furnishings, pets and more!

One of regular purchases here is 4 packs of John West tuna chunks. They sell 3 varieties – in brine, in sunflower oil and in spring water. All are £2.79 for a 4 pack, that’s 67p per tin! The next cheapest I could buy is an economy, supermarket brand at around 80p per tin, although the price has come down recently and you can buy Asda Smartprice or Tesco Value for 65p per tin. However I don’t think the quality compares, as economy brands are usually grey mush and barely resemble a tuna steak. I rarely see John West for less than £4 in the supermarkets. The tuna is pink and meaty, definitely top quality!

I use a lot of mailing bags and tissue paper for sending eBay items. I used to buy my mailing bags at Wilko, as I found them the cheapest. Their A4 mailer bags x5 are £1.50 are and A3 x5 are £1.75. The same at Home Bargains are 49p for 6x A4 and 89p for 6x A3. They sell 10 large sheets of tissue paper in a rainbow of colours for 49p, the next cheapest I can find is at a local bargain store for 99p. There’s just no contest is there? You can see how the savings start to add up!

I regularly buy sweets and chocolate here, as they are so much cheaper than the High Street. They have a HUGE range! I also love my oatcakes and I can buy them for 65p per box here. Compare that even to Poundland, where surprise, surprise – they cost £1 a box! They have a huge range of cheap biscuits and top brands too. As someone who eats a gluten-free diet, I often spy gluten-free items in Home Bargains at a mere fraction of the supermarket cost. A while back they were selling Nutribix for 79p a box! They cost £3.79 a box in the supermarkets- they had a slightly shorter best before date of 1-2 months, but what does that matter when you’re going to eat it soon anyway?

I buy some of my toiletries here too, dental products are much cheaper than the high street and I always pick up big name toothpaste for £1 a tube, like Colgate, Sensodyne or Arm & Hammer. They often have bumper sized packs going for this price too.

Do you use Cif cream cleaner? They sell it here for £1 a bottle. You might find it for £2 in the supermarkets if you’re lucky and occasionally £1.50 a bottle at Wilko. But other than grabbing it from time to time, in Poundland – you won’t find it regularly, this cheap. They also sell Dri-Pak Soda Crystals at 65p for 1.5kg which is way cheaper than £1 a bag at Wilko. These have so many household uses and I’d never be without a bag.

In the pet section today, they had pet carriers for £20 and scratching towers for the same price. They are always cheaper for treats here, like Weebox sticks at 79p per pack, next cheapest is 99p in the supermarkets or Wilko.

I regularly pick up Sequin Art kits here for £6-£7 instead of the £15-£18 they are full price. I have had lovely hardback Disney notebooks for £1-£2. If you check out http://www.moneysavingexpert.com and look on the ‘Quick Grabbit’ forums, you will find a Home Bargains thread where members post the hottest deals. But I want to encourage you to go there anyway for your everyday basic items because they are much, much cheaper! Oh and be sure to come back and tell me what you’ve found 🙂

The Lies We Tell Ourselves

I have a very personal catalyst for wanting to minimise some more. It’s spurred me on to addressing the sheer amount of clothing, shoes and bags I have amassed. It’s not until I have started to purge, mostly by selling at this stage that I have understood the truth of the situation and realised the lies I’ve been telling myself. I find it so hard to let go of these things, so I am aiming to get rid of the items least used first. If I think the item has any value, then I am eBaying it. Otherwise it is being donated to a charity shop or given to a friend. If the items don’t sell on eBay after 3 attempts, they are also being donated.

I’ve shared these pictures before, but here they are again. This is not a minimalist wardrobe, I repeat…this is NOT a minimalist wardrobe! It’s not just a wardrobe; there are bags and boxes of unloved items.

Since I posted these pictures in September 2015, things have not really improved one iota! I was and still am a clothes addict and buying clothes cheaply, either in sales or charity shops is an easy way to mask the true cost of what you are spending. In just 2 months of selling, selling, selling on eBay I have sold around £500 worth of items. To date, I have shifted 45 items – by clearing out cupboards, wardrobes, boxes and kitchen cupboards. I’ve even sold several items of furniture! However, a significant proportion of this was clothing, bags and shoes. £500!!!!! I am horrified to realise that is only a part of what I own and I don’t miss a single thing.

I love to get a bargain, or a good deal and it’s easy to kid ourselves that if something is only costing £5 then it doesn’t really matter. But if you times that by say 1 purchase every week of the year and before you know it, you’ve spent £240 in a year. Imagine the compound interest on that over 10 years. A quick calculation at 1% interest shows that I could have £2615.55 if I just stopped buying and saved this money instead.

I’d also fallen into the pitfall of believing that buying a certain, expensive item would make me happy. Let me tell you know that it’s not true and owning an expensive bag or pair of boots has bought me more guilt than anything else. Guilt about the cost, how little I’ve worn or used them, or even because they did not make me happy like I’d thought they would. There’s so much truth in the psychology that we get the thrill from buying an item and that it quickly wears off.

I hope I learn these life lessons finally and I would love to have a capsule wardrobe! I will share some more pictures after I have completed my down-sizing. I am reforming and I’m going to be accountable on here.

Now it’s over to you – how have you managed to successfully down-size your belongings? Did you particularly struggle with an item or area of your home? Did you have an event that was a catalyst to down-sizing? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section!

False Advertising

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What’s with all the Christmas advertising this year regarding having your best Christmas ever?! It seems worse than usual to me, it’s the mainstay of several UK stores campaigns. Wilko’s tagline is “Bring home your best Christmas”. Asda’s tagline is “Christmas made better”. Swarovski are saying that you must ‘give brilliant’. Since when did stores get so arrogant? I’m all for retailers helping you to achieve ‘Christmas’, after all we all want to buy a little special food to celebrate the day. We may wish to buy a few gifts, or experiences. That’s what makes Christmas different from every other day of the year. But it’s this year I’ve really noticed them piling on the pressure for people to buy more and more. Maybe it’s just that I’ve got fresh eyes now I’m further down the road on my minimalist journey.

In fact the only retailer I’ve seen peddling a different message is Sainsbury’s, who are pioneering an advertising campaign centred on a harassed dad who’s trying to find his family ‘the greatest gifts’. It ends when he discovers the greatest gift he could give anyone is his time. It’s refreshingly different, even if I find the song that accompanies it rather irritating. At the end of the day, a huge part of Christmas is meeting up with people you love and sharing a meal. I think that is a truly great thing – sharing conversation, food, laughter, a few silly hats and a walk in the afternoon.

But, Christmas IS just another day – albeit a special day – but it doesn’t need to be perfect, you don’t need to keep ‘besting’ last year and no amount of stuff, including food is going to stop the odd family argument. After all, you’re probably going to be couped up with these people for a few days! So relax, enjoy it for what it is and take it as it comes. Happy Christmas Everyone!

Start Conversations with Brands about Zero Waste

One of the best ways to start engaging other people in your lifestyle choices is by having conversations with them. It’s probably best to not make it the first thing you say, but over time these things can and do come up. I talk about my lifestyle here on my blog, but recently I started to think about how I could make a bigger impact. More than just sharing posts on Facebook. I’ve started to write letters and emails to target specific brands. Brands that I’m already using and I like, but that could do with making better choices about the packaging they use.

It doesn’t always go well, I get a lot of excuses and well we’ve tried this and we think plastic is the best option. But I hope that if I keep engaging with them, over time and possibly suggest alternatives that they might start to listen. I don’t expect them to change for just one person, but imagine our consumer power if we all started doing this. They would have to listen, for fear of losing business! So this post is to encourage you to get out there and start engaging in conversation with brands. Don’t just sit back and feel frustrated about the lack of Zero Waste opportunities where you live. Let’s start campaigning for change!

Here are my top tips for composing a good letter:

  • Keep it friendly
  • Say how much you like their product (I only write to brands I enjoy using/ eating)
  • Say what makes you unhappy and tell them why. I’ve used my Council changing to fortnightly bin collections as a starter. I tell them I’m concerned about how much packaging goes straight in the bin, especially now my bin collections have halved in frequency
  • Ask if they’ve considered alternatives or suggest some, if you know of any.
  • Use statistics to back up what you’re saying – we live in an evidence based society, so they’ll love to hear about some relevant research. It makes you sound more credible and authoritative
  • End by saying you’d appreciate knowing their thoughts
  • It’s also a great idea to write and congratulate brands that are doing things well, even a short post to their Facebook page will boost them. I recently wrote to a supermarket who switched from using glass bottles with plastic lids for their spices, to glass bottles with metal lids. I told them how much I appreciated the change and why. I encouraged them to make more of those kinds of changes.

What are your top tips for initiating change? Have you tried writing letters to brands? Get in touch.