IT WAS once seen as a status symbol to show off designer labels and boast about expensive purchases.
But now, it seems that the show-offs of the retail world are more keen to demonstrate their deal-finding credentials than put on display their acquisitions of pricey goods.
“Deal chic” has arrived – and is seeping into the very core of consumerism from personal possessions to gifts.
No more will a woman flash the logo on a Gucci handbag costing thousands of pounds – instead she is more likely to reply to a compliment about her outfit with a quickfire: “Oh this! I bought it in Primark for £5 – and the shoes came free with my handbag.”
A survey published this week by Phones 4u has revealed that nine out of ten people brag to their friends and family when they have secured themselves a good deal – while more than a third say they are more likely to chat at the water cooler about the bargains they have snared, rather than stick to the favourite British conversation topic of the weather.
It is not just indulgent self purchases which attract bargain hunters – cut-price Christmas gifts are now as festive as mince pies, and not just among the Scrooges of this world.
According to separate research by Tesco Bank, 60 per cent of women plan to use money-off and discount vouchers to save cash this Christmas. A further 45 per cent will wait to buy Christmas presents until store discount days – and 32 per cent will pay for as many of their purchases as possible using credit card points and rewards.
Vouchers from companies such as Edinburgh-based Dealmonster.co.uk, Groupon and itison have become so popular that many people are now opting to give them as Christmas presents, rather than hiding the fact from the recipient that they have bagged them a bargain gift.
“Consumers have always loved getting good deals or exclusive rewards, but rather than having to hide one’s haggling, securing the best deals is now accepted, if not admired by one’s fellow consumers,” said Henry Mason from website Trendwatching.com, which coined the “dealer chic” phrase.
“Deal hunting will continue to be an integral part of consumers’ lives, as its now about more than just saving money; it’s the thrill, the pursuit, the control, and the perceived smartness, and thus a source of status too.”
Three quarters of shoppers admit that they spend more time scouring the high street and internet than before the economic downturn, with the average consumer spending a year of their life proactively deal hunting.
While previously, bargain Christmas gifts would have been cleverly disguised in fancy wrapping or branded boxes, the new trend for voucher shopping means people are now likely to wake up with a printed Groupon voucher sticking out of the top of their stocking – and be proud of it. While everyone knows that the giver has not paid full price for a voucher present – the average discount can be as much as 60 per cent – that has now become socially acceptable.
Jennie Duncanson, sales rep for Dealmonster.co.uk, which launched in September, said there had been a major sea change in consumers’s attitudes in recent years.
“With the way the economy is now, people just can’t afford to spend the same kind of money they used to, but they want the same standard of gifts – so they are happy to admit that they have managed to get something with money off,” she said.
“I think in some cases, it depends on who they’re buying it for, but the vast majority of people are delighted to receive a voucher – they are getting exactly the same experience.”
Oli Norman, chief executive of Glasgow-based itison, revealed that about 10 per cent of all vouchers bought from the site in recent months had been gifts – with spa breaks and white water rafting high on the list of top cut price presents.
“Daily deals sites have really only been in this country since the recession,” he said. “The most astonishing thing is how quickly they have become the consumer norm.”
Philip Graves, consumer behaviour expert and author of book Consumer.ology, said: “Since the recession started, people have become much more deal conscious. This makes it much more likely that customers will consider price when previously the desire to own the latest thing, or to get the product their friend had, would have seen them acting much more impulsively.”
He added: “It’s no surprise people are going to great lengths to shop around for the best deal.”
Scott Hooton, trading director at Phones 4u, said high street shoppers for electrical goods prefer to check out all of their options before making a decision.
“Our research shows that shoppers will go to three to five stores or web sites on average before buying anything on the high street,” he said.
However, despite the change in attitudes, one in four women shoppers plans to take budgeting a step further to Scrooge-esque levels by recycling unwanted gifts from previous years, according to the poll by Tesco Bank.