Have your shopping habits changed over the last few months? I have to admit that mine certainly have. I’ve noticed a growth in farm shops and I’m lucky to live beside an original ‘pop up’ shop on Springmount Farm, near Ballygowan. This has been especially useful for topping up on local fruit and vegetables, Kennedy Bacon and fresh bread from French Village. I’ve also been doing lots of online shopping, not just from large retailers but from local artisans such as Broighter Gold, Erin Grove and Indie Fude.
There are indications now that shopper behaviour has changedsignificantly during the COVID-19 lockdown especially in the months that followed the initial wave of panic buying in supermarkets. There’s everything that local families need now readily available from our network of smaller retailers.Interestingly, the retailers have also noticed too, who is local and who is not! Local suppliers outdid themselves during lockdown by delivering on time every time, they really went the extra mile. I truly believe we have a food and drink industry among the very best in the UK.
Significantly, a recent survey of 2,000 UK shoppers found specialist food stores, such as family butchers, fishmongers, greengrocers and grocers, have been most popular especially with younger shoppers (18-24 year-olds), as older age groups (65+), many of whom may have been staying at home, relied more on online services and deliveries. Not what I would have predicted, but good to see support for local from young people and well done to older age groups in embracing the digital age.
The report in the Shoppers of Our Time series, ‘Life Under Lockdown’, suggests a shift in how different age groups have used different store types over recent months. And it’s an important shift in attitudes and behaviour that has to be factored in by food processors here in how our food is promoted especially in Britain.
“Shopper behaviour has changed to an extent rarely ever seen,” says IGD which carried out the survey. There appears to be a greater trust in such stores and the responsiveness of their owners to requests for home delivery. There’s been a growing recognition of the quality, taste and wholesomeness of food from local farmers and fishermen.
Some of these changes, the survey said, will “present a unique opportunity for retailers across the board to retain shoppers they traditionally wouldn’t have – such as specialist stores, to keep younger shoppers visiting, and general or online retailers to retain the older shopper base they have attracted during this time”.
Understanding the changes to shopping habits and behaviours during lockdown gives us an idea of what the retailing future might look like for those businesses trying to lock in their long-term plans.
Shoppers over 55 were the most frequent users of specialist stores pre-lockdown and now younger age shoppers, which might have been expected to order online, are also now turning to specialist shops offering greater access to trusted local food and drink suppliers. It’s all about trust – products and people they can trust to offer quality and provenance.
The changing shopping landscape presents specialist shops with an opportunity to expand their customer base, as IGD’s findings suggest these changes are here to stay.
The research found 78 percent of all age groups visiting specialist stories more frequently said they would continue to do so in the future. For delis and farm shops looking to understand what an uncertain future holds, these changes in shopping habits are extremely important. The survey also indicates that many shoppers who depended upon delivery from online contacts will continue to do.
I certainly hope so. I am certain that the time to truly celebrate our local food and drink producers is here.