A report by data and digital experts TWC, which is preparing to launch a new industry trends tracker, looks at the habits formed by consumers in recent times and how they believe their new grocery shopping behaviours will endure after the pandemic subsides.

One key finding from the study was that despite smaller, local retailers seeing surging sales during the pandemic, the convenience sector’s share of grocery sales has fallen from 28.3% (in March 2020) to 22.7% (end January 2021).

It was found that whilst 23% of consumers say they are top-up shopping more during the current lockdown, 30% are shopping less, meaning there is a net reduction in top up missions.

TWC Chief Executive, Tanya Pepin, said: “We asked consumers that if they needed to top-up shop today, where would you go. 37% said they would go to the supermarket with a further 31% saying they would turn to multiple convenience and 16% to a symbol store. Only 7% said they would head to their local independent convenience store, and there is a concern that as we pull out of lockdown later this year, that there may be a slow-down in the growth of these much-loved local community stores, which have played a vital role during the pandemic in serving their local customers.”

She added: “Let’s also dispel the myth that behavioural change has been driven simply by the increase in homeworking. This is not the case. According to the ONS, only 34% of the UK workforce is currently home-working with 5% of workers falling out of work since March 2020, and 16% of the workforce was on furlough in late November. That still leaves half the workforce going to work at their business premises.

“Our responders indicated that their eating habits have certainly changed, but that they also expect these to change again, post lockdown. Right now, 48% of consumers are now making lunch at home, 43% of households are now cooking meals from scratch, and 39% are snacking through the day more. 26% of consumers are doing more grocery shopping on line and 6% of consumers have enjoyed using a meal ‘kit’ in the last few months.

“Post Covid, it is clear that once the working day ‘normalizes’, consumers want convenience eating and snacking again which bodes well for the local c-stores. 61% say they will reduce (or stop) making lunch at home. 44% will cut back on buying bigger bags of crisps/snacks and 23% of consumers plan to start buying more takeaways.”

Meanwhile, TWC’s data showed that 68% of people want to reduce or end working from home but only 14% want to return to ‘the office’ as they knew it. 62% want to reduce or end work meetings on Zoom/MS Teams and people are seeking a new work experience rather than the one they had before. They want to get out of the house and they want to meet face-to-face and not on Zoom or Teams.

Pepin highlighted elements that could be useful to wholesalers to understand how they can support their retailers and stay ahead of consumer trends: “A few simple tips could include supporting retailers to engage with customers via newsletters, tailored offers, loyalty and membership schemes. Plus, encouraging convenience retailers to fight to win share of the top-up shop mission – especially independent retailers. We would urge wholesalers, (if not already), to look for advice on data strategies to fuel loyalty – remember data is the oil that turns your digital engine.

“We would also suggest that teams look to ‘re-imagine’ the workplace fit for 2021 and beyond and turn consumer sympathy for our channel’s economic plight, into tangible support”.

NAM Implications:
  • Knowing from past experience…
  • …that consumers often have different ‘intents’ vs. practice…
  • Could be worth conducting what-ifs covering these differences (above)…
  • …in order to anticipate opportunities post-Lockdown.

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