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  • First benchmark study of 10,000 reveals family has never been more important. 
  • However, half of UK population believe the make-up of family is unrecognisable compared to just 20 years ago.
  • First Index score of 55 out of 100 – representing a cautious optimism about family life as we begin to emerge from the pandemic. 

Today (Friday 18th June), M&S is launching the first of its new quarterly Family Matters Index reports, designed to identify what family means today, why family matters and what matters to families now.

Conducted by Yonder Consulting, the first benchmark study combines qualitative and quantitative research with over 10,000 people from across the UK. It provides a baseline for future reports with the first index score (see below) but also captures a unique time in our history, revealing how families feel as we begin to emerge from the pandemic. The key findings show: 

What family means today: 

  • Over half of people (55%) believe that family is defined more by who you feel close to than by biology – increasing to 72% for those aged 18-24. 
  • A sense of ‘family’ is characterised by support (79%), trust (72%) and unconditional love (71%) 
  • Half of the UK agree that ‘the make-up of families is unrecognisable compared with 20 years ago’.
  • ‘Housemates, friends and people you’ve grown up with’ are considered as ‘family’ by over 40% of the population, with sports teammates considered family by 14% of people and work colleagues named by over one in ten (12%). 
  • 90% feel part of a family 

Why family matters: 

  • Around eight out of ten (79%) believe family is more important than ever  
  • 40% of respondents say their family has never been stronger 
  • 3 x as many people feel closer to their family than a year ago 

What matters to families now: 

  • Environment tops the big picture concerns for families – with over six out of ten saying they were worried about how environmental damage will affect future generations. 
  • Health, children’s development and finances are the top closer to home concerns for families 
  • Aside from Covid, future plans (54%), health concerns (42%) and being more active (29%) have been major topics of conversation for families. 
  • Two thirds committed to doing more activities together as a family post pandemic. 

Victoria McKenzie-Gould, M&S Director of Communications, commented:

We’ve launched the new Family Matters Index to obtain and share a deeper understanding of how the UK’s families are feeling and what they’re doing. M&S serves around 30million customers and our products help families make more of the everyday and mark the special moments we can all relate to – whether it’s a first day at school or milestone birthday. Whilst we are first and foremost a retailer, we’re not only a retailer and for many we are an employer, partner and a neighbour - and we take that role seriously. Through the quarterly index we want to stay close to families across the UK so we can deliver our promise of trusted value on the things that matter to them most.

“The findings of this first study reveal that family is more important than ever, and in a year when we have all spent so much time apart, it has brought us closer in ways we could never have imagined. We often talk about the M&S Family and through the pandemic it's been incredible to see how our colleagues have pulled together in support of each other. As this report tells us, family is not always about set structures or blood relationships, but the feelings of support, trust and loyalty we feel from those closest to us.” 

Family Matters Index score: 55 out of 100 demonstrating a cautious optimism 

The report provides the first benchmark score of the quarterly index, which will enable M&S to regularly track and measure the optimism of families and compare across different representative groups.  The Index score is based on a scale of 0-100, with 100 being highest, with a mid-point score of 50 or above representing a positive, optimistic perspective. Generated using data from the 10,000 participants, it is calculated based on their responses to a combination of detailed questions exploring their happiness, optimism, financial security, and the strength, health, and resilience of what they see as their family unit. 

The score of 55 out of 100 for the first report demonstrates a nation that is cautiously optimistic about family prospects for the future as we emerge from the pandemic. The quarterly index will continue to measure the resilience and confidence of families over time. 

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How M&S is supporting families

M&S serves around 30 million customers and employs over 70,000 colleagues across the UK. Over 137 years, M&S has built a business as an own-brand retailer based on a customer promise of trusted value – delivering products of exceptional quality and sourcing standards. The new tracker is just one input in helping M&S deliver on this promise - with products and services that are relevant for what matters most to families and how they want to live their lives today; from helping them stay active or spend more quality time together. 

Core to M&S’s transformation is being more relevant, more often to more people and this means making its ranges more accessible. Over the last 12 months M&S has continued to make changes - whether it’s offering even better value or new ranges that cater for more customer needs. This includes: 

Extending Trusted Value: This last year, M&S Food has expanded its range of ‘Remarksable’ value staple lines – offering M&S quality at everyday low price on over 340 products – from 65p Vitamin D enriched bread to RSPCA assured milk at £1.15 for 4 pints. 

Helping customers to stay active: In January, M&S extended its popular womenswear Goodmove activewear range to include menswear & kidswear - reflecting the fact  customers were working out more as a family during 2020.   Today’s findings show that staying active is a front of mind concern for 2021 – with around one in five (18%) stating they are playing sport and exercising together more regularly following the pandemic. M&S is now the number one retailer for full price sales in the women’s activewear clothing category. 

Helping customers celebrate more events: Customers turn to M&S for special occasions – from the UK’s most popular birthday cake (Colin the Caterpillar has attended 10 million birthday celebrations) to the 1 in 4 households that choose M&S for their Christmas Turkey. To make it easier for more customers to enjoy more special occasions, the retailer has extended its ranges of vegan products to offer its biggest selection of plant-based Easter and Christmas products ever in 20/21. The retailer is catering for even more occasions – with new expanded ranges designed for events such as Chinese New Year, Passover, Eid, and Ramadan. Alongside this, M&S is working to better reflect the communities it serves in the way it markets events and product ranges to customers. Over the last year, we helped customers who couldn’t be together physically to show they were thinking of each other, extending our range of online gifts and flowers, as a result sales of those ranges increased by 184%.

Catering for more customers’ needs: M&S clothing plays a role in the big and small family moments – from being the destination to pick up the first school uniform (M&S sells 5 million school shirts every year), the first bra (1 in 3 bras in the UK is bought in M&S) to the first suit for an interview or a prom. The retailer has listened carefully to customer feedback to develop ‘Easy Dressing’ adaptive ranges that support specific needs and make the everyday that little bit easier for more families – including specially made hip dysplasia clothes, feeding tube clothing and zip-up bodysuits. 

Sustainability concerns: Plan A – M&S’s multi-year sustainability action plan - is embedded into the retailer’s commercial plans. In doing so, it delivers on its customer promise of trusted value – whether that’s the launch of its most sustainable denim range yet, using 86% less water, kinder chemicals and 100% sustainably sourced cotton, through to delivering a 120% increase in food redistribution thanks to the roll-out of a new in-store app. Through Plan A, M&S is committed to making better choices to ensure the planet and precious resources we rely on are in better shape for the future. With long term environmental and societal impact front of mind for families, they can feel confident that M&S is taking a leadership position on the issues that matter to them – from extending its climate change commitment from carbon neutral operations it has today to reach a net zero emissions status by 2035 or being one of the first major retailers to sign up to the Coalition to End Forced Labour in the Uyghur region’s “Call to Action” for a brand commitment to exit the Uyghur region. 

Looking after the M&S family: Caring for colleagues is part of M&S’s DNA and over the last year particularly, M&S has continued to invest in supporting its colleagues. This has included establishing a colleague hardship fund to support families financially impacted by the crisis and providing new tools to promote mental wellbeing – such as the Unmind app. 

The next Family Matters Index and report will be published in September 2021. 


Notes to editors

  1. The M&S Family Matters Index will be published each quarter, tracking what family means, why family matters and what matters to families today. 
  2. Yonder conducted eight online focus groups with adults from across the UK. Participants spanned a wide range of ages and family situations. Each focus group took the form of a structured two-hour discussion about what ‘family’ means, the feelings and values that people associate with families and the range of hopes, fears, issues and priorities that relate to family life in the UK today. The focus groups were conducted in February 2021.
  3. Yonder interviewed 10,003 people across the UK aged 18+.  Interviews were conducted in every region of the country and the data weighted to be representative of the whole UK population by age, sex, region, socio-economic group, ethnicity and religion.  The poll questions were informed by the qualitative insight and outputs from the focus groups.  The poll fieldwork was conducted online in March 2021.
  4. Yonder is a founder member of the British Polling Council and follows its rules.

View the full report here