From flamingoes to avocados: John Lewis unveils what we bought and why in 2016

The John Lewis Retail Report 2016 reveals how Brits responded to 12 months of political, cultural and economic shake-up by ‘making brave statements of self-expression and embracing escapism’.

The fourth annual ‘How we Shop, Live & Look’ report from the department store group unveils how Britain’s homes, wardrobes and lives have changed in a year.

Based on an analysis of John Lewis shopping data from August 2015 to September 2016, the survey concludes that the weather had a huge impact on what customers bought and when.

A mild January saw strong sales of lightweight linen, while snow in April meant sales of scarves, faux fur throws and slippers rose 41%, 200% and 300% respectively. And an unseasonably cool early summer led to a 13% rise in ladies’ thermal underwear purchases.
In this year of unexpected weather and events – that included Brexit, a new prime minister and success at the Rio Olympics- Brits also shook things up in their homes and wardrobes, with bold purchases ‘making brave statements of self-expression and embracing escapism’.

Clashing prints made a statement in the home, with multi-coloured hummingbird wallpaper increasing in sales by 94% and patterned china by 52%.

Eye-catching flamingos emblazoned everything from cups and cushions to wallpaper and fairy lights (searches for ‘flamingo’ increased 200% on johnlewis.com) and decorative gold-coloured pineapples made a quirky style statement. The retailer sold 70 a day at the height of their popularity.
This year the nation also looked for ways to ‘physically and metaphorically escape the confusion and enjoy the more whimsical side of life’.

John Lewis’ Kuoni travel agents saw a 40% rise in long haul holidays. Sales of portable mobile phone chargers soared over 200% in July as people distracted themselves by hunting for Pokemon. And the week after Brexit, Sipsmith Gin sales increased 103%, suggesting Brexiteers celebrated while pro-EU voters drank away their sorrows.
But, the retailer notes,’ However unfamiliar the outside world became, the nation did not falter in its quest to live and eat well’.

2016 was the year of the avocado, with searches for avocado-related products 85% higher than last year, while refillable water bottles were everywhere, with sales increasing 35%.

This was also the year when home technology raised its game, with an increasing range of connected products making it possible to remotely control more items in the house than ever before.

Searches for smart home products on johnlewis.com were up 670% and the retailer saw an 81% increase in sales of smart home products.
In addition, the report provides a glimpse of products falling from favour. The list includes big hats which were replaced by disc-shaped fascinators; selfie sticks, with searches online dipping 50% compared with last year; CD and DVD storage as on-demand entertainment services replace CD and DVD collections; and alarm clocks which declined 9% compared with last year.

John Lewis operates 48 John Lewis shops across the UK (34 department stores, 12 John Lewis at home and shops at St Pancras International and Heathrow Terminal 2) as well as johnlewis.com.

*An in-depth feature on the report’s contents will appear in the November/December issue of ‘Housewares Magazine’.

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