Mary Portas talks spiralizers and sugar-free with Lakeland

Lakeland played a key role in Channel 4 documentary ‘What Britain Bought in 2015’, which aired on December 30.

In the show, retail consultant Mary Portas offered an eye-opening look at the shopping trends of 2015, from the ‘must-haves’ to the ‘why did we evers?’

Products that became best sellers last year include coconut oil, beard oil and bread trimmers, grey and pastel hair dye, ‘athleisure’ wear (athletic leisurewear, designed to be worn in and outside the gym), adult colouring-in books and Prosecco.

For housewares retailers, there were two success stories: the NutriBullet blender and the spiralizer: a gadget which cuts hard vegetables and fruit into ribbons. According to the programme, “2015 was the year of cleaning living. It was all about investing in our wellness in the way we may have invested in our wardrobe in the past’.

Mary said that in 2014, over 800,000 NutriBullets were bought, so for 2015, sales would have exceeded one million, meaning one in every 60 households now has a NutriBullet.

The spiralizer was a huge success too, with Amazon enjoying a 1,400% increase in sales on the year before. Lakeland spotted the trend early. The specialist chain’s director of buying Matthew Canwell told Mary: “It’s done phenomenally well for us this year. We’ve actually had spiralizers for a number of years now. It’s just in the last 12 months that people have suddenly understood the benefit and what you can do with it.”

He continued: “Last year we thought the spiralizer would come through earlier than it did. We had pallets and pallets of stock, and you do start to worry because you’re looking at that and thinking, ‘wow, have we really got this so wrong? This could cost us a lot of money as a business!’”   

Lakeland had to hold its nerve for probably three to four months. “That’s a lot of sleepness nights,” Matthew recall with a smile. “And sometimes you need somebody like Ella Woodward to come along to give people an understanding of ‘why’.”

He is referring to health food blogger Ella Woodward, who tapped into the public’s interest in health last year when she wrote about her vegan, gluten-free and sugar-free diet. It struck a chord with Britain’s shoppers and her blog was an overnight hit; it now gets four million to 6 million hits a month.

She is also the author of best-selling cookbook ‘Deliciously Ella’. Matthew commented: “It was the biggest cookbook of the year – bigger than any of the celebrity chefs’ – so people have really believed what she’s said and are suddenly coming in looking for the product she’s using.

“Then all that stock that we had – that we were worried about – sold out in three weeks and we were scrambling back to our supplier to ask ‘have you got more?’  – which they had a little. Last year we sold one every four minutes, which is just crazy.”

Finally, Mary asked Matthew: what will be big news in 2016?  “I really think the year is going to be more about sugar-free,” he said. “So we will be looking for that product that helps you achieve that in your diet. What that is, I don’t know… but we’re out there looking for it.”    

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