New Study Indicates 'Seismic Shift' In UK Grocery Habits

By Steve Wynne-Jones
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New Study Indicates 'Seismic Shift' In UK Grocery Habits

Two thirds of UK consumers have shopped in discounters such as Aldi and Lidl in the past month, according to a new study by Shoppercentric, which the research firm says indicates a 'seismic shift' in buying habits.

According to the Shopper Trends report, based on research conducted in December, the percentage shopping in discounters has risen to 67%, up from 56% in 2016, while the percentage that shop in the main supermarkets has remained static, at around 84%.

'Little And Often'

The research showed that an increasing number (17%) of British shoppers now shop 'little and often', avoiding the weekly 'big shop', which is a 55% increase on the 2016 figures.

“In 2016 the discounters were enjoying the benefit of the recession but weren’t necessarily making serious in-roads into the mainstream grocers,” said Jamie Rayner, managing director at Shoppercentric. “At that time, for 43% of UK shoppers, they were a handy option in their repertoire of stores, like standard convenience stores in that, for many, they had a role but weren’t the mainstay of grocery shopping habits.”

In the years since, mainstream grocers have been challenged by changing perceptions about the discounters, whose appeal is no longer just based on value.


“Of course, low price is at the core of their appeal, but shoppers recognise that there is more to their offer now,” continues Rayner. “The effort the discounters have put in to improve their product quality, demonstrated by the awards they regularly win, is paying dividends.

"Whilst their stores are never going to be designed with comfort in mind, shoppers know what they are getting, and are willing to make the trade-offs required on a regular basis.”

The Importance Of Range

The rise of the discounters prompted mainstream grocers to focus on range as their main benefit, Shoppercentric said, with discounters' limited ranges unable to compete with the traditional superstores.

However, the research firm found that increased numbers of shoppers are using the discounters to discover new or different products, rather than using the mainstream multiples – prompting the need for mainstream grocers to rethink their offering.


“There are plenty of signs that the UK grocery market is struggling to grow in the way it has in the past,” said Rayner. “UK shoppers are becoming more concerned about waste and are questioning their own spending veracity.

"If shoppers can’t be encouraged to spend more, then the existing retailers can only grow their share by stealing from the competition. That’s easy if you are in a position of strength and based on the shopping patterns evident in the UK it is now arguable the appeal of the discounters as market disrupters is stronger than simply being one of the market big boys.”

Rayner noted that with Aldi and Lidl poised to open more stores in 2020, putting them on a par with the 'big four' in terms of accessibility, this is the year that retailers need to "get to grips with the role they play in UK shoppers' repertoires".

© 2020 European Supermarket Magazine – your source for the latest retail news. Article by Stephen Wynne-Jones. Click subscribe to sign up to ESM: European Supermarket Magazine.

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