Retro is back: Nearly half of UK consumers regularly buy vintage

October 9, 2022
  • A study into changing consumer relationships with commerce has uncovered the nation’s obsession with vintage – from what we buy, to how we buy it
  • 43% shoppers regularly buy vintage, and many miss old products, old stores and even old jingles
  • 1980s and 1990s, the most popular decades that shoppers would return to if given the chance to relive old-school purchasing

Nearly half (43%) of UK consumers surveyed buy vintage items, while significant numbers wish they could revisit the shopping experience of decades past, according to new research from omnichannel customer engagement platform Emarsys.


The study of 2,000 UK adults found that 12% shop vintage for pure sentimental value, 10% to decorate their home, and 10% as a retro hobby.

Classic brands and products populate the vintage purchase list, with VHS tapes (25%), Walkman’s (22%) and Etch-a-Sketch (19%) proving most popular in invoking nostalgia. In many cases, these items recall a more peaceful time, with 15% of Brits agreeing that they missed “simpler times” where they weren’t exposed 24/7 to brands across different mediums.

Such items not only offer comforting familiarity for consumers, but also serve as a slice of childhood nostalgia. 22% of shoppers specifically identified iconic TV commercials as something they missed from 90s marketing and shopping, with buying through infomercials/catalogues (also 22%) and iconic TV jingles (16%) close behind.

These numbers closely reflect the proportion of shoppers with a preference for shopping in previous decades: 22% would like to revisit the stores and malls of the 1990s, while another 22% would head back to the 1980s to make their purchases if they could. The physical stores Brits would most happily travel back through time for include Blockbuster (16%) and Toys ‘R’ Us (26%) — with its imminent return to the high street a testament to the viability of the retro market.

With the influence of vintage sweeping across the entire nation, from inspiring fashion design to becoming core content for influencers around the world, it might not be a surprise that all ages are embracing the trend. Almost three-fifths (58%) of 25-34s buy vintage, followed by 48% of 35-44s, 46% of 45-54s, and 26% of those aged 55+.

Nimesh Shah, Marketing Director at Feel Good Contacts, commented, “Vintage is on demand now more than ever; everyone is still after a simple and traditional shopping experience.

“Emarsys’ data and insights have shown us that apart from price, convenience is an important factor when shopping online, where new and existing customers need their journeys to be quick and easy.

“By personalising and segmenting to the individual user, we’re able to drive more sales and acquire new customers. As technology is continuously changing, it’s important we adapt and make sure we provide a seamless experience for all our users.” 

Kate Hardcastle, MBE, added “From retro fashion influences to home decoration, the love for vintage is sweeping the nation. More Consumers than ever are turning to vintage items for value for money, as well as a sense of familiarity, nostalgia, and the unique aesthetic that they offer. 

“TV series like Stranger Things have catalysed this, fueling retro as a recognized trending pop culture. And it’s not just vintage items that consumers are craving, but the shopping experiences too. We are amidst a retail evolution with genuine demand for experiential shopping, great customer service and a sense of discovery that only physical stores can deliver. 

“Customers are savvier than ever before, which means they demand all the efficiency of technology in the digital era but now it is time to bring back retail’s greatest asset, fantastic customer service across all channels”.

To keep up with evolving consumer demand, marketing has dramatically shifted in the last few years. Understanding how shoppers were influenced in the past — as well as how technology impacts the present and will continue to impact the future of shopping — allows marketers to develop a deeper understanding of how they can provide the best possible customer experience.

To that end, Emarsys is encouraging consumers, brands, and marketers all over the world to attend the Emarsys Power To The Marketer festival, in association with Vogue Business, from 4–6 October 2022. During this three-day event, leading brands including Jimmy Choo, TikTok, French Connection and Reformation, will come together to celebrate marketers and the impact they make every day. This festival will take place live online, in-person, and on-demand, and you can register for free.

About Emarsys

Emarsys, an SAP company, is the omnichannel customer engagement platform that empowers marketers to build, launch, and scale personalised, cross-channel campaigns that drive business outcomes.

We partner with more than 1,500 companies from global enterprises to fast-moving mid-market brands across industries.

  • Emarsys is purpose-built to give more power to marketers so they can:
  • Accelerate time to value by quickly onboarding data and channels to deploy cross-channel campaigns
  • Deliver real-time, 1:1 personalisation that builds trusted, loyal, and lasting customer relationships with every interaction
  • Succeed with proven guidance to make smart, quick decisions with data-driven insights and analytics
  • Produce measurable results that drive predictable and profitable growth throughout the customer lifecycle

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