Mary Portas on bridal lists and the Brazilian effect

Mary Portas took another look at the British public’s shopping habits last Thursday (July 7), when she hosted episode four of Channel 4’s ‘What Britain Buys’.

In the series, the retail consultant meets buyers, trendsetters and consumers to find out what we’re spending our money on and why.

In last week’s episode, Mary lifted the veil on wedding presents. She said it costs an average of £377 to be a guest at a wedding if you include the price of an outfit, accommodation, travel to the venue and, of course, the wedding present itself.

Generally people are getting married later in life (often in their thirties), she said, and over three million couples are already living together. “So if they decide to tie the knot, newlyweds probably already have the old wedding list stalwarts of toasters, teapots and dinner plates. They’re looking for something a bit fancier.”

Christine Kasoulis, buying director department store group John Lewis, agreed. “They are looking for ‘want’ products rather than ‘need’ products,” she said. “Couples are using their weeding lists to maybe upgrade some items, so we’re seeing large TVs, leather sofas…”

Mary explained that increasingly, guests are clubbing together to buy such bigger presents. But, she added: “If a group-based effort is not for you, there’s a new hot gift appearing on wedding lists up and down the country.”

According to Christine, “One of the most surprising things we saw appear last year on our customers’ gift lists was the pineapple [a decorative gold ornament]. I think it’s because people want something memorable, to remind them of their wedding and that moment. It was an amazing sell-out success and we couldn’t keep it in-stock.”

Another unusual present was a £20 bamboo bee house, while the top three gifts were a slow cooker, a wireless music system and the NutriBullet blender.

Meanwhile, with the Rio Olympics dominating our TVs this summer, the ‘Brazilian effect’ is being felt all over the high street, from flip flops to fast food, Mary claimed.

Jonathan Moore, executive development chef at supermarket chain Waitrose confirmed this. “The influences of Rio for us this year will definitely be about more of that outdoor-style eating, and cuts of meat,” he said. “They are very famous for picanha [a cut of beef popular in Brazil], for example, which is ideal for barbecuing.

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