They are the things you didn’t know you needed but now can’t live without: a fitness tracker, wireless headphones, a fancy “bean-to-cup” coffee maker and, more recently, an air fryer. For women add a flattering jumpsuit and white trainers (but forget the floral midi).
So says John Lewis in its latest retail report. The annual exercise usually shines a light on the current year’s key products and trends but what’s different this time is, after scrutinising buying habits for 10 years, it also identifies “products of the decade”.
Kitchen gadgets come and go but a KitchenAid food mixer and Sage bean-to-cup coffee machine are among the (pricey) products that “defined” changing tastes during a period bookended by the post-Olympics glow and a grim cost of living crisis, it says.
After years in the doldrums, back in 2013, one retail boss said the sudden food mixer boom was “thanks to Mary Berry”. With Bake Off now in its 14th season, the statuesque KitchenAid mixer has also endured as a baking status symbol.
And all that cake needs an accompaniment. In a nation that is increasingly turning its back on tea, instant coffee just wouldn’t do. In response, households are buying hi-tech paraphernalia to make barista-grade Americanos and espressos at home.
Also on the list is the Ooni pizza oven which, like fire pits and inflatable hot tubs, were all the rage during the pandemic when restaurants and bars were closed and the only option was to entertain yourself at home. More recently, with energy costs in focus, the new cooking lust item is a more practical Ninja air fryer.
Over the period covered by the report, Britons became increasingly wedded to their phones with this tech addiction spawning the fitness tracker with devices, such as the Fitbit, now the norm for many. Meanwhile, the ability to stream books, music and TV on the go has also made a set of noise-cancelling headphones essential.
New wardrobe staples such as the jumpsuit – thanks in large part to Fleabag whose £38 black version caused a sensation – have also emerged. The white trainer is there too, but you probably know that because back in 2019 the Guardian’s Jess Cartner-Morley called them the “It shoe of this decade”.
The products of 2013-23 also include wild cards. With Instagram feeds full of families decked out in matching sets on 24 December, “Christmas pyjamas” make the cut, as does an inflatable flamingo, a throwback to 2017 when kitsch inflatables were all the rage.
But what about 2023, a year marred by financial pain and a washout summer? In clothing, the key trends include men’s boxer shorts (but confusingly worn by very fashionable women) and Birkenstocks, with sales of the once-niche German “sensible” sandals up 86%.
Sales of strapless bras are also up by a fifth as going “out out” returned in earnest, with the specialist lingerie aiding the return of the boob tube. The sturdy-looking Stanley Quencher reusable cup also emerged as an unlikely accessory after A-listers such as Adele were seen sipping from them.
But there were losers too. Post-lockdown, with less time being spent at home and salons open, demand slumped for pampering gadgets such as LED facial masks and eye rejuvenators. Another casualty was the home printer, with sales down by a quarter, as workers returned to the office or just used the “cloud”.
The wet summer put a dampener on sales of everything from drinks trolleys to fire pits and beach towels, with sales of the latter almost halving.
Hit films and TV shows also influenced what we bought, with demand for all things Barbie soaring on the back of the success of Greta Gerwig’s film. After boosting flat cap sales during his Peaky Blinders years, Cillian Murphy was also credited with starting another hat craze: the fedora, after his stylish turn in Oppenheimer.
With many Britons glued to the final season of Succession, what the Roys wore fuelled demand for billionaire chic, a trend dubbed “quiet luxury”. Sales of tailoring are up 70% on last year while half-zip jumpers are outselling crew necks. In a nod to Logan Roy, sales of silk scarves are also up.
The report also contains a postscript for the floral midi, which after a long reign was “left behind” as women sought out new looks involving “graphic tile prints” and “block colours” instead of a “ditsy floral”.
The past 10 years have also contained highs and lows for John Lewis, part of the staff-owned John Lewis Partnership which also owns Waitrose. It was hammered by the pandemic and 16 outlets did not reopen. In March the group reported an annual loss of £234m forcing it to scrap its staff bonus for a second year.
However, John Lewis’s commercial director, Kathleen Mitchell, said there are signs that shoppers were once again seeing a trip to one of its department stores as a “good value day out” with customer numbers up 8% on last year.
“People want to come back to shops, especially on Saturdays,” she said. “Customers are eating, drinking, spending time in our shops. It can be quite a good value day out, with a little self-restraint.”