KMaxx, on the other hand, markets itself as providing popular named premium brands at low cost; ‘Big Labels Small Prices’. TKMaxx claim to deal directly with designers and brand owners and then pass their savings on to the consumer. As a result, a consumer doesn’t feel like they are wearing a value brand but rather the opposite- as TKMaxx make them believe, they are simply a ‘savvy’ shopper. For instance, from their website the inference is that TKMaxx consumers are just ‘in’ on the shopping secrets- there is even a technique to making the most of a TKMaxx store! The unique shopping experience, the unique clothes (TKMaxx boasts that no two shops stock the same clothes) and the unique concept of providing big brands on the high street at outlet pricing ensured that TKMaxx has never really seemed a ‘value’ brand.
Alongside TKMaxx, Primark should be considered as a unique value brand in the UK. It is hard to put into words how Primark has avoided the pitfall of bring a ‘value’ brand, especially given that in my experience their products are noticeably inferior to other similar products from competitors. My personal perception of Primark, which given the nature of consumer culture is probably not unique, is that Primark clothes are so cheap that the slight dip in quality is made up by the ease of replacing the item as required. Furthermore, they simply serve the purpose for which they are needed; most of my purchases from Primark have been for a specific purpose and I never expected them to last very long! One such example is when I purchased a black t-shirt specifically to cut it up for a one-off Halloween costume.
In terms of putting this seemingly new mind-set in to practice I would like to draw on my own shopping experiences. Having just recently left full-time education I am well acquainted with the average female university student mind-set and their approach to clothes shopping- only purchasing premium/ middle market branded products predominantly during sale periods (or using their birthday/Christmas money!), and purchasing value products largely as and when desired.
Although there is still an element of prestige associated with premium brands that cannot be replicated by the value brands, there is a shared sense of approval in terms of the value brands. Instead of being a cheap means to an end, many students (myself included) searched for and bought value products that defy their price category; there is a degree of achievement buying something from Tesco that surprises people when they find out where it was purchased- or at the very least when its origin isn’t immediately guessable.
Even though reports suggest that the value brand has been growing since the early 21st century and not just during the recent economic downturn, with economic recovery inevitable (hopefully), it will be interesting to see if the value brand maintains its growth or if increased financial prosperity sees consumers turn towards costlier middle/premium products. It is possible that consumers are starting to value the clothes on their quality and less on the prestige of the brand; having experienced value brands for the last decade or so and persistently increasing purchases from that market, perhaps this is a message to middle markets; if they want to maintain their dominance then either the quality or price, needs to become more competitive.