What does family mean to you today?

Happy smiling family
At a glance

M&S have put families at the heart of their business since they launched over 130 years ago. Through their history, the nature and shape of families has changed considerably and what people think of as family now is almost unrecognisable, compared to even 20 years ago.

As an important part of their wider business transformation, M&S partnered with us to develop their Family Matters Index. This Index will track how families’ feelings and priorities change every three months, helping M&S stay part of the family and remain close to what matters most to families across the country.

The first M&S Family Matters Index launched in June 2021, an important time as the UK emerges from the Covid pandemic, which has had important implications for families. Physical separation, health and financial concerns brought about by lockdown have all placed a strain on family units like never before.

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The full story

We conducted eight focus groups with adults across a wide range of ages and family backgrounds. During these two-hour discussions, we explored what family means to them, 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 outputs from this qualitative study informed a questionnaire that was then delivered to 10,000 adults across a representative spread of the UK population. The questions explore happiness, optimism, financial security, and the strength and health of what they see as their family unit.

This Index will be published each quarter to track the changing role of family and observe attitudinal shifts as we go back to some kind of normal. Future studies will delve into different aspects of family life and track how the confidence and resilience of families changes over time. The insight will inform how M&S can continue to deliver great value products and services for families.

What family means today

‘Family’ is a very inclusive word. More than 90% of people say that they “feel part of a family”.

Family is not defined solely by blood relationships and most people feel that family is more about who you feel close to. A majority of women (52%) believe this as well as more than half of under 45s and 58% of single people. 

The study reveals that the meaning of ‘family’ is more inclusive than ever before and for many people can include:

  • housemates (42%)
  • friends (42%)
  • those they have grown up with (40%)
  • members of the same sports team (14%)
  • neighbours (12%)

There is a very broad and deep consensus across the UK that ‘family is more important than ever’. Nearly 8 out of 10 people feel this and only 5% disagree. 

Forty per cent of people feel their family has never been stronger and three times as many people feel closer to their family than they did twelve months ago as feel more distant.

People’s worries and concerns about their family focus on some big societal and global issues – environment, inequality, social division – as well as more immediate and personal concerns, of which the foremost is health alongside financial security.

Two thirds of people have resolved to do more activities as a family when lockdowns are behind us. More than half are planning big family get-togethers in the year ahead.

‘Family’ is a very inclusive word. More than 90% of people say that they “feel part of a family”.

"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 and partnering with the expert team at Yonder, 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.

"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."

Victoria McKenzie-Gould, Director of Communications





What we did

Customer understanding