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Customer Experience Consumer Behaviour Marketing

The rising single population : Key trends


By Colin Grieves, General Manager, Experian Digital Media Services

July 2, 2013 | 5 min read

This is a guest post from Danny Thompson, Head of Product Marketing, Data & Analytics, Experian Marketing Services.

What does the average single person in the UK look like? A difficult question to answer, but by combining Census data with our Mosaic insight we can reveal that they are about 30 years old, drive a Volkswagen, earn around £35,000 and most likely shop at Tesco and live in Nottingham.

The 2011 Census suggests that there are more than seven million single person households in England and Wales. The single population in the UK is clearly significant, so trying to understand the variations that exist within this vast group – in terms of characteristics and locations – is of huge importance to marketers.


It might not come as a surprise to learn that the top locations for single households are in the major cities – with Nottingham, Edinburgh and Newcastle taking first, second and third place, respectively (see image for list).

Towns with the lowest numbers of single households overall are Windsor, Bromsgrove, Aldershot, Hatfield and Stratford-upon-Avon, perhaps as people move out of the bigger cities for retirement or to start a family.


The data also highlights some of the important characteristics of single groups, revealing that single households can be broken down into four key types:

1. Solus Singletons

This group is mainly elderly, living on private pensions and have downsized to retire to small flats in modern purpose built blocks. The South Coast is the most popular area for this type although Edinburgh also comes high up on the list. They are frequent shoppers – choosing M&S and branded local convenience stores for groceries. They are regular givers to charity – especially those linked to cancer research and support for the elderly. Although usually Conservative voters they are also 30 per cent more likely than average to vote for a nationalist party and are reluctantly green, many being unconvinced of the benefits.

2. Suddenly Singletons

Well paid executives in their early 40s is the typical profile in this group. With household incomes of around £70,000 they are three times more likely than the average person to shop at Waitrose and they also eat out regularly. Professional roles in IT, finance, pharmaceuticals and publishing dominate career-wise and they are regulars on the internet – managing finances, checking headlines and networking through sites like LinkedIn. Suddenly Singletons are twice as likely to be divorced than the average and many are also using the internet for dating. Like the Starting Out Singletons (see below) Volkswagens are the car of choice, but this group is more political with 33 per cent favouring the Conservative party. Seventy per cent of this group give to charity and again similar to Starting Out Singletons they are keen to be green but a busy lifestyle often gets in the way.

3. Struggling Singletons

Aged 18-25 this is the least affluent of the singles groups. They are two and half times more likely than average to have an income of less than £10,000 a year earned from unskilled, manual jobs and 60 per cent more likely to be unemployed. Slightly more male dominated than the average singles groups, they are most likely to live in Birmingham, Newcastle or Manchester in a flat that is almost four times more likely to be council or housing association owned than for the UK population in general. Shopping mostly in local convenience stores they are also far less likely than the average to own a car.

4. Starting Out Singletons

These are younger singles (typically aged between 26 and 30) who own or rent new inner city apartments or small houses on modern estates in places like Harrow, Lewisham and Bristol-Broadmead. They earn on average around £30,000 a year and tend to work in advertising, media, IT, pharmaceuticals and telecoms. Just over a third would describe themselves as having no political party affiliation and despite thinking of themselves as ‘eco-friendly’ they struggle if this means compromising on lifestyle.


Census data provides marketers with remarkable access to valuable information about how society continues to evolve. But it is only by linking this data with tools that add real colour to the information that actionable insight can be gathered. Marketers must keep up to date with how their audiences are evolving, looking at population changes and behavioural subtleties in their target segments. Ultimately, such insight is what helps to inform the targeting of the most engaging and compelling campaigns.

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