You’re the one that I want (don’t tell the others)

It is no secret I’m not a fan of shopping. Shopping of any variety (except IKEA and B&Q – or Home Depot for you chaps over the water) is one of my least favourite things to do, right up there with getting a bikini wax or paying a parking fine. As a teenager I begged to be allowed to go shopping on a weekend with friends a friend (who am I kidding?  I was an anti-social bugger who had maybe a handful of friends and would sooner be sitting on a muck heap in the stables). My parents were not keen on my burgeoning freedom and it took me until I reached the decrepid age of 14 before I was permitted to venture the 18 miles to the nearest big town to “go shopping”. What actually happened was we spent an hour in the Body Shop trying on lip gloss before sharing a milkshake and a plate of cheesy fries at the supposedly retro American diner behind the shopping centre. I may have bought more £1 bottles of nail polish between 14 to 18 than anyone else but damn it, I felt cool.

The 90’s – When Just Seventeen was contraband and Sun In only for the coolest of the cool

Very slowly, I began to realised that my £12 a day didn’t go very far and eventually I changed jobs and started earning a bit more pocket-money. Shopping still was a lure to a rather naive teenaged self but seeing as the other “cool” kids were doing it, I wasn’t about to let it pass me by. What I really wanted was a pony and seeing as that was never going to happen, nail polish and pick and mix was an achievable 2nd. It was before the era of loyalty schemes and cards. We shopped in places that we had been in with our parents; H&M, The Body Shop, Boots and BHS. Occasionally there would be a new shop opening up selling candles, cheap jewellery and trinkets that wouldn’t last the journey home but on the whole we stuck to what we knew. Loyalty was built up via our parents and their shopping habits – to this day I only buy my underwear from one shop, the tried and trusted M&S.

Even in reliable M&S cotton

As a married, fully employed and vaguely responsible grown up woman, my shopping habits are somewhat altered. No longer do I trawl shops for lurid nail polish and candles that when lit smell like a brothel. No, I have evolved into an IKEA lusting, yarn hoarding, cheese obsessed weirdo. I don’t “shop” I buy things when I need them. Shopping as an activity is not something I would partake in unless there is a definite need for certain items. Christmas shopping for example, is an exercise best undertaken during the working week when the majority of people are at work. Less crowds, more space and less to whip me into a flustered, sweaty frenzy. I take my mother in law with me – equally as prone to fits of giggles and able to put away cake when the crowds get a bit too much.

In this modern world where there is a pop up shop happening on every corner, the retailers are eager to hook in the pounds and keep their customer base strong. Some brands will have firm standing in the spending habits of the people; habits forged from parents and grandparents that will never change. Others will develop over time and through personal experience and preference. This is where the loyalty aspect starts to become apparent. The definition of loyalty is “faithfulness or a devotion to a person, country, group, or cause”. The act of being loyal would suggest repeat visits to a certain brand or shop and by doing so, the retailers got the idea of rewarding these loyal subjects with points. Points then could be turned into cash which would then be ploughed back into the store, cementing the positive reinforcement that by remaining with that retailer gave you as the consumer, a reward for your devotion and continued following.

Tesco were the first brand on the scene in the UK to introduce a loyalty scheme. In 1993, the Tesco marketing team investigated the potential of a loyalty card. While they had previously offered Green Shield stamps that accrued value, there was no customer data being gathered and so there was no targeting marketing. A loyalty card could track what was being purchased and then could send money off vouchers and extra rewards for the items that people would buy on a normal visit.  Not only would they purchase them anyway, but the retailer was rewarding them for doing so – genius. People signed up in the thousands and the loyalty scheme was born.

Helping you spend. Not less, but more.

Since then, most major food retailers, department stores and increasingly smaller companies have introduced loyalty schemes designed to encourage shoppers to spend at one place. The more you spend, the more points/stars/lives you earn and the more you potentially save or are rewarded with money off coupons and discounted products. Here is where I come in: as a consumer, I am a whore. I will go to whoever is cheaper on the day I am actively purchasing something. Petrol, food, cleaning products, coffee, insurance – you name it and I’ll try to get the lowest price for the item I need. Loyalty to me is having a card for ALL of them and then seeing which one is closest/cheapest/open latest/has a sale on etc. My purse is approximately 98% loyalty or reward cards and the rest is rubbish. I am the most disloyal loyal consumer out there. To prove a point, this is the contents of my purse:

  1. Debit card (ok…not a loyalty card)
  2. MasterCard (held with the same bank as debit)
  3. Decathlon card (sports store)
  4. Nando’s Card
  5. Morrisons Match and More (only came through today – prompted this post)
  6. Shell Drivers Club
  7. Tesco Clubcard
  8. Nectar Card
  9. Morrisons Miles card (fuel)
  10. La Tasca (20% off all food)
  11. House of Fraser Recognition card (department store)
  12. Go Outdoors (another sports store)
  13. The Waterstones Card
  14. Costa Coffee Club
  15. Boots Advantage card
  16. Cooperative card (in Husband’s name but I have one too)
  17. Gourmet Society Membership Card (a loyalty bonus from my bank)
  18. Hobbycraft
  19. Bar Burrito
  20. IKEA Family card
All the cards...

All the cards…

That, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, is not loyal. That is a consumer who likes the possibility of getting money off or free stuff as a reward for spending money in the first place. Retailers – I’m not sorry I have one of each of you. I know it defeats the object of having a loyalty scheme and I know that while I have so many, I’m never going to be able to reap the rewards that I might otherwise get if I just did what the card/scheme was supposed to do. But seriously, the cat likes Co-op cat food, Sainsbury’s petrol is cheaper at the moment and Morrisons are giving you points which turns into money if their prices aren’t the lowest. When  you look at it that way, all I’m doing is supporting 3 businesses instead of 1 – I’m like the superwoman of the economy. George Osbourne should take note.

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