Well, what a year! But then again, we’ve been saying that for the last 3 years so perhaps we all need to get used to constant change and reinvention.

Can the UK economy afford to be cautiously optimistic?

We end 2022 with the most severe tightening on household budgets since the early 1980’s. The pressure on consumer spend, driven primarily driven by global economic conditions post Covid and the ongoing Ukraine crisis, are clearly going to have an impact in 2023 and beyond. Economic doom and gloom pervade both our media and news reporting and the UK political turmoil of the last year seems to have exacerbated the situation still further. This is undoubtedly going to put a strain on family budgets and on discretionary spend in general.

But, is it all quite as bad as it might seem, or are media and political commentators making the situation worse and essentially talking the UK into a deepening crisis? Or, is there actually a genuine case for UK business and for consumer brands and retailers in particular to look forward with some level of optimism?

In January 2023, S2 is embarking on the latest of our quarterly Snapshot Surveys into the rapid changes in consumer and shopper spending behaviour; this one being specifically geared to ‘The Cost of Living Crisis’. The research, which will be sponsored by a number of our major client brands, will hopefully shed some light on consumer confidence and we’re pleased to confirm that we’ll be sharing key results of this survey in our next newsletter in March ’23.

Without pre-empting the results of this research, however, many of our clients are already telling us that, despite having less disposable income, people really do want to enjoy themselves when they get the opportunity to ‘go out’. This is especially true in the post Covid era, with pent up demand driving a bounce back in the out of home (OOH) sector during 2022. Our agency is primarily focused on OOH and after a disastrous 2020 and 2021, it was a blessed relief to see our clients in food and drink, leisure, hospitality, casual dining, high street retail and travel finally investing in growth again in 2022.  During the pandemic, the growth of the ‘Home’ channel transformed the landscape and drove a dramatic shift in consumption and behavioural habits with online direct to consumer (D2C) purchasing in many sectors more than doubling against the previous 2 years. And, whilst online will continue to thrive and consumers focus on tightening their belts once again, we believe that 2023 represents an opportunity for many brands and retailers who are bold, progressive and who invest in improving the out of home experience for us all.

What’s happening at S2?

Closer to home, S2 has enjoyed an excellent post Covid recovery in 2022 with fantastic new business wins from global brands like Diageo and Pepsico. We’ve also really enjoyed working again with some of our long-standing clients like with Coca-Cola Europacific Partners (Schweppes Dispensed Tonic), Unilever (Ben & Jerry’s reward scheme), TUI (travel brands and retail estate market analysis), Bewiched Coffee (brand development), Carlsberg Marston’s (customer website design), Whitley Neil Gin (brand strategy) and Royal Caribbean (consumer research). We’re enormously grateful for their continuing support.

From a personal perspective, it’s great to see us bounce back after some very tough years. Whilst S2 has been run as a privately owned business for over 22 years, I’m pleased to confirm that we are now focused on radically scaling the business as the potential for growth in a market hungry for a more intelligent, data driven and measurable approach is huge.

Our long history, brand reputation, expertise, service offering and major blue chip client base, means that we have the capacity to be a much larger agency going forwards and this will be our clear objective going forwards into 2023 as we seek investment and strong strategic alliances.

Pete Flood, CEO & Founder.