BARGAIN NATION: ARE LUXURY BRANDS IN TROUBLE?

marketing strategy is taking the strain against a changing world.


BY Michaela Hall: culture Columnist


Consumerist culture has revolutionised in the twenty-first century. It has seen the rise of online marketplaces, discounter stores, and fast fashion brands dominating the economy. This has also promoted a culture of bargain hunting and analytical purchasing. Could this mean the future of luxury brands are in trouble?

One brand praised internationally is Aldi. With its first store opening in Germany in 1961, Aldi was the first discounter store in the world. Now spread globally across 11 countries, it has become the nation’s fastest-growing supermarket. On their company page, Aldi claims “We’ve just opened our 900th store and we plan to have 1,200 stores in the UK by 2025. (Not to mention our growing global presence.)”. yougov.co.uk statistics also show that Aldi and it’s fellow German discounter store Lidl have fought their way to the fourth and second positions of the most popular supermarkets in the UK, overtaking supermarket giants that pride themselves on affordable luxuries, such as Waitrose.

On Monday 25th January, it was announced that leading international department store Debenhams had collapsed. This department store with British origins selling in over two hundred stores across eighteen countries, is recognised for its sales of various luxury brands ranging from designer clothing and homeware to electrics and beauty. Controversially, fast-fashion online brand Boohoo.com has purchased Debenhams. Boohoo have revealed their plans to scrap all stores and continue Debenhams solely as an online global marketplace, aspiring to the model of Amazon. Boohoo is a brand that has often been under the spotlight for its unethical and unstainable production methods- which allow the products to be cheap, produced quickly, and arguably of poor quality, a discounter brand of the fashion industry. This gives an indication of the direction in which the nation’s shopping economy is heading- towards speedy, convenient, bargain brands.

This discounted reproduction of luxury brands is something that is increasingly emerging in online marketplaces such as Amazon. ‘The Truth About Amazon’(2020) produced by Channel 4 featured Amazon ex-employees along with retail analysts to explore how this trend is growing.


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Photo: Claudio Schwartz

It was revealed that the Amazon basics range was continuing to imitate more luxury branded products that are sold through the platform, at an accelerated rate.

Due to digital marketing tools and tailored algorithms, Amazon ensures that these products appear as the top ‘recommended’ product over the original luxury brand’s item, who cannot dispute due to conditions in their agreement to trade on Amazon. Consumers are being fed discounted options before any other- so it’s now, in cases such as this difficult to access luxury brands unless a customer specifically scrolls to find them, a behaviour which is uncommon in the speedy and immediate nature of online shopping. 

Globally, as the population enters into rates of unemployment highs, dealing with the lasting economic effects of the covid-19 pandemic and the uncertainty of Brexit trade deals, a nation of smarter shoppers are emerging. Turning to the attractive prospects of discounted and ‘own brand’ purchasing- shoppers want what they want, when they want for only a fraction of the price of what luxury brands can offer us. This in combination with the reproductions of luxury items we see across the retail sector has led to the demolition of ‘discount’ as a negative connotation, now one which is a leader in the industry. Consumer culture is changing fast. As are a bargain nation practiced in reaping the benefits- can luxury brands really compete?


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