Kantar pinpoints four behavioural lessons from grocery shopping in last four weeks

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Kantar has pinpointed four lessons from the behaviour of UK grocery shoppers in the four weeks to 22 March.

Presenting during Kantar’s ‘Ensuring resilience in retail’ webinar, Andrew Walker, client knowledge director, Worldpanel Division, said it had been a tumultuous four weeks of grocery shopping but was an ever evolving crisis. “It’s hard to keep pace with the narrative,” he said.

Government messages and the situation in stores meant the week ending 22 March was incomparable to what had come before, Walker said. “There had been a bit of growth before but, in that last week, all bets were off. Most people were working from home and there were extreme stretches on the supply chain and a huge gravitation to convenience stores in the last week.”

The situation has changed since, Walker added; and he suggested the UK was mirroring behaviour in China where strong growth had been followed by a big slow down and then a decline. 

“There’s some evidence of that in the UK following the last data period,” he said. Worldpanel Plus daily data to 28 March shows a very sharp drop off in trips after the record high footfall, driven by school closures and then stronger lockdown measures. “People were more reluctant to go out and found it less attractive with queuing in car parks and social distancing in stores,” Walker explained.

The second behavioural lesson was that footfall growth benefited every store sector with growth in almost every category in-store, Walker said. 

Kantar recorded 33 out of 34 sectors and 257 out of 285 categories were in growth in the latest period. Typically just over half of those areas or categories would have been in growth, Walker said.

Product categories benefited from an increased number of trips and higher spend per trip. “Presence in more baskets is the primary growth driver for all markets,” Walker said, adding that a footfall decline could provide a challenging time for categories and brands in the next few weeks. 

Shopper behaviour also differed widely during the crisis, Kantar found. It compared the changing volume of shopper consumption this year versus last. It found that in the last four weeks, 25% of people were buying 50% more volume with a concentration of those households in Wales and London.

Understanding the extra volume that’s been purchased would provide a good indication of what to expect next, Walker said. 

Many categories, for example, have sold almost a month’s worth of incremental volume with an extra six weeks of liquid soap sales and an extra three weeks of dry pasta in the 12 weeks to 22 March, for instance.

The key is to determine whether those products were sitting in cupboards or being consumed. 

Dry pasta sales, for instance, could experience a volume decline if purchasing has simply been brought forward. Equally, the uplifts could be incremental if it was being consumed as people bought it and sales could continue to increase if people’s habits had been changed. 

The extent to which people are spending more time at home may benefit certain categories, said Walker. A fifth – 22% – of evening meals are out of home, representing a potential £200m more per week for in-home products.

Increased consumption, especially of impulse lines like ice cream and soft drinks, was likely too; while healthy eating typically drops down the priority list during an economic shock and will impact categories differently, Walker added.