Britons’ shopping habits shift ‘this time towards convenience channels’

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Post-pandemic, Britons are spending more in convenience stores, suggest new data by NielsenIQ which stated that grocery spend in the UK convenience channel grew by 3.3 per cent in the four weeks to 11 September as compared to just 0.6 per cent growth seen in the amount spent in supermarkets. 

Shoppers are making “little and often” shopping trips and are purchasing locally and more “impulsively”, NielsenIQ said. Online sales share remains steady at 12.4 per cent, it added, although this is slightly down from 13 per cent recorded for the same period last year.

Visits to all stores were up 10 per cent compared with last year. However, visits were down 6 per cent compared to pre-pandemic times of 2019, showing there is still headroom for growth at stores.

Overall, grocery sales have marginally increased by 1.8 per cent compared to the corresponding period last year. Shoppers spent £9.8 billion at major UK grocers in the four-week period- £526 million higher than in the corresponding period in 2019.

Mike Watkins, NielsenIQ’s UK Head of Retailer and Business Insight, commented that UK shopping habits are shifting once again, this time towards convenience channels as Brits return to more impulsive shopping behaviours that correspond with a return to pre-pandemic lifestyles. 

The warm weather in early September also helped, said Watkins.

The NielsenIQ data suggests shopper sentiment is upbeat, as all UK supermarkets experienced a jump in new shoppers over the 12 weeks to 11 September. Sales rose 1.4 per cent at Tesco while Marks & Spencer saw sales increase by 7.4 per cent. Lidl saw a growth of 15 per cent at Lidl, making it the fastest growing grocer.

Watkins pointed out that rising energy costs and inflation may hit the disposable incomes.

“There remain some clouds on the horizon as rising energy costs and inflation could hit disposable incomes, whilst availability concerns could present challenges,” he said, adding that grocers, however, can still expect to look forward to a “short-term boost as some of the incremental spend has not yet returned to the hospitality channels, and shoppers are likely to plan in advance if household budgets are more constrained”.

Watkins emphasised that retailers need to encourage bigger spends on every shopping trip now that habits are shifting away from a big shop online and towards new, and smaller missions at stores.

Grocers must prepare for the tightening of budgets later in the year which means ranges and pricing must reflect this in order to resonate with price-conscious consumers, Watkins said.