As of last week, UK retailer Superdrug officially added 30 more products to its "Price Freeze Promise", citing research that revealed that “80% of its customers are having to switch to cheaper brands.”
The brand will hold the prices for a year in an attempt to help customers navigate the cost of living crisis so many are facing — focusing mainly on personal care essentials such as tampons, toothpaste, soap, and more.
Situated within the brand’s larger “Shop Smart” campaign, which provides customers with helpful ”tips to help keep costs down”, it addresses the larger issue of hygiene poverty — which, according to poverty campaigner Jack Monroe, is growing at an “alarming rate”.
Like the cost of many other items and services such as food and energy, the cost of personal care items has also seen a steep increase — what Monroe dubs “a hidden impact of the cost of living crisis”.
Thankfully, Superdrug isn’t alone in its quest to help UK consumers navigate the cost of living crisis that’s impacting consumers of all walks of life. The UK’s “big four” supermarkets — Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, and Morrisons — have also stepped up and “outlined cost cutting measures and pledged to support consumers”.
But across the pond, US consumers haven’t been as lucky with their prices.
The Pros & Cons of Price Controls
Inflation and the rising cost of living are incredibly complex issues — and ones that don’t have universally agreed-upon solutions. In the US especially, many economists strongly disagree with price controls in times of inflation.
For example, CNN Business Insider cited David Autor, a Professor of Economics at MIT, who said that while “price controls can of course control prices”, they are “a terrible idea”. But why? According to many mainstream economists:
“Limiting how much companies can charge will distort markets, they argue, causing shortages and exacerbating supply chain problems while only temporarily reducing inflation.”
However, not everyone agrees with this outlook. According to Isabella Weber, an Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, “price controls have a role to play in the United States”. In her recent piece for The Guardian, Weber explains that:
“Price controls would buy time to deal with bottlenecks that will continue as long as the pandemic prevails. Strategic price controls could also contribute to the monetary stability needed to mobilize public investments towards economic resilience, climate change mitigation and carbon-neutrality. The cost of waiting for inflation to go away is high.”
Clearly, there are legitimate reasons both in favor and against price controls — however, these are usually set up by governments. So, what can brands do to help consumers deal with the current cost of living crisis?
How Brands Can Help Consumers Survive the Cost of Living Crisis & Improve Brand Loyalty
Whether or not countries’ governments will step in to control rising prices and combat inflation is uncertain. However, this signals a unique opening for brands to step up — especially those that provide products and services deemed “necessary” to consumers’ lives.
While not every brand may be able to follow in Superdrug’s footsteps and freeze prices for an entire year, there are ways to show consumers that your brand cares about their welfare. For example, donating to charities that support low-income families or providing support for employees who are struggling.
Keep in mind — according to Forbes, “81% of millennials say they want to support brands with corporate citizenship.” And, at the end of the day, consumers — especially younger ones — are looking for brands that echo their values. This is why brands that give back report increased loyalty — when consumers feel good about shopping with your brand, they’re more likely to remain loyal.
So, take a look at your brand data and deep dive into your consumer insights to find out what it is your consumers need from your right now. Lower costs? More payment options? Better deals?
Bottom line: If they’re struggling with the current cost of living crisis and considering switching to less expensive brands — now is the time to give them a good reason to stick around.