Consumer Markets and Societal Trends
Every EU or indeed global citizen is ultimately a consumer and final consumption is the largest component of the European economy, representing 56.4% of EU GDP1. While consumer spending can fluctuate both in absolute and relative (as percentage of GDP) terms, its long term general trend is positive, growing broadly in parallel with GDP. However, hidden below this general growth trajectory are a multitude of consumption and consumer trends driven by economic, political, societal, cultural, environmental and other factors. Some of these trends, usually referred to as fashions or fads, can be very erratic and often short-lived whereas others can be understood as truly secular long term trends fed by powerful durable drivers based on global political, economic or demographic developments.
Three such broad long-term societal trends which clearly have a wide impact on consumer behaviour and consumption patterns world-wide and which create enormous opportunities and challenges for the consumer goods industry have been singled out
Safety and sustainability in production and consumption: powered by long-term economic (rising resources utilisation costs), political (combat of climate change and improved consumer safety) and cultural (responsible producer and consumer behaviour) drivers;
Health, well-being and activity of an aging and individualising population: powered by long-term demographic (ageing population) and cultural (more diverse and self-assertive lifestyles) drivers;
Satisfying needs and desires of a growing global consumer class: powered by long-term political (globalisation and market liberalisation), economic (growing middle class in emerging economies) and cultural (aspiration to status and recognition through material goods) drivers;
All these trends are further influenced by an ever greater availability and ease of access to deep information and knowledge about products leading to a “smarting up” of the consumer turning into a professional or even productive consumer who has increasing influence on product development, production or product-service processes – a concept embodied in the term “prosumer”.
The Design-based Consumer Goods Industry in Europe
The European designed-based Consumer Goods sector (incl. design, product development, manufacturing & distribution operations) represent a substantial and vibrant part of the European economy. While the borders between primarily design-driven versus primarily functionality driven consumer goods categories are not clearly demarcated, for the purpose of this project and the wider research collaboration initiative the following sectors are considered:
Textiles, clothing, leather and footwear products, sports goods, games and toys, interior products made of different materials such as furniture, sanitary
products, floor, wall and window coverings, table and kitchen ware, glassware and spectacles, watches, jewellery, bags & accessories and various cosmetic and beauty products as well as the design-oriented packaging of these and other products.
Not considered will be primarily function-driven consumer goods categories such as motor vehicles, consumer electronics or white goods, although these also increasingly turn to design and emotion to add products value and achieve competitive differentiation.
The targeted industrial sectors represent a total annual turnover of approx. € 500 billion and economic value added of € 150 billion while employing some 5 million people in more than 500,000 companies across the EU-27.
These sectors combined are also an enormous business driver to supplier sectors such as the chemical and basic material industries as well as the machine, mechanical engineering and IT sectors. In addition they feed a huge logistics, distribution, retail and after sales consumer services sector and a broad range of business service sectors depend on a continued well-being of the consumer goods manufacturing sectors in Europe. These sectors are also very broadly distributed across the EU with particularly strong industry presences in Southern European and the New Member States in which they often constitute dominating business and employment drivers in local and regional settings with an otherwise limited diversity of industrial & service activities. The design-based consumer goods sectors are also characterised by a significantly above-average female employment in both product development and manufacturing operations. For example 80% of employees in textiles, clothing, leather and footwear companies in the New Member States are women and more than 75% of graduates of Europe’s fashion and design colleges are female.
Objectives of the European Consumer Goods Research Initiative
The objectives and expected benefits of this initiative for the industrial and academic research communities connected to the design-based consumer goods sector are manifold and can be clustered into 2 main stages: (1) building a European-wide network and agreeing on a common priorities and (2) implementing joint action.
The first stage – networking and roadmapping - comprises:
Creating mutual awareness and facilitating contacts, building trust
Collecting and generating data and knowledge valuable for the entire community at EU level
Encouraging and organising knowledge exchange and other forms of community interaction
Joint priority setting, roadmapping and action plan development
The second stage – joint implementation actions – include
Building and testing joint structures and services
Developing content, procedures and channels for joint communication/interaction with external stakeholders
Ensuring sustainability of collaboration initiative over a long period of time
1 Consumers in Europe, 2009 Edition, EUROSTAT, http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/cache/ITY_OFFPUB/KS-DY-09-001/EN/KS-DY-09-001-EN.PDF