UK shopping habits shifting towards convenience channels

Shopper shopping

Grocery spend at convenience stores grew by +3.3% in the past four weeks ending 11 September 2021, outperforming the growth at UK supermarkets, which rose by +0.6% during the same period, new data from NielsenIQ reveals.

NielsenIQ says this shift toward the convenience channel is a result of a gradual return of pre-pandemic consumer habits, as workers slowly return to offices and children are back in schools.

The data shows visits to all stores are up 10% compared with last year. However, visits are still down 6% compared to 2019, showing there is still headroom for growth at stores. The online share of sales remains steady at 12.4%, slightly down compared with the same period (13%) last year, with the trend towards smaller online baskets.

NielsenIQ data reveals that total till grocery sales for the four-week period rose to +1.8% compared to the same period last year. This is an improvement from +1.1% in August 2021 and a +7.3% growth in sales against 2019.

Meanwhile, shoppers spent £9.8bn at the major supermarkets in the past four, which is £526m more than the same period in 2019 (+6%).

Mike Watkins, NielsenIQ’s UK Head of Retailer and Business Insight, said: “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.

“However, there remain some clouds on the horizon as rising energy costs and inflation could hit disposable incomes, whilst availability concerns could present challenges. However, grocers 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 added: “For retailers and manufacturers there are three challenges as we look ahead to the golden quarter. The first is 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. The second is having inspiring media campaigns in October that help to build spend for the festive period and for the big Christmas shop. Finally, 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.”