Strong supermarket performances show benefit of getting under the skin of changing shopper behaviour, says Bridgethorne

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The successful performance of the retail multiples over the Christmas period demonstrates the value being gained by suppliers and retailers alike in better understanding the changing nature of shopper behaviour and requirements.

Category and shopper management specialist Bridgethorne points to Sainsbury’s success with online shoppers and Morrisons’ success with premium, upmarket lines as evidence of how understanding of changing shopper habits and needs across categories and channels can be the key to commercial success.

Data from market research group Kantar Worldpanel suggests the retail multiples enjoyed their period of fastest growth since June 2014, with sales up overall up by 1.8%, and discounters Aldi and Lidl experiencing growth over the period of 11.8% and 7.5% respectively. Tesco’s food performance was strong with shoppers driving a 20% increase in sales of its Finest wine range and a 24% growth in sales of its party food range. Morrison’s reported a 2.9% rise in like-for-like sales for the nine weeks to 1 January and a 2% growth year-on-year. Part of this was due to store improvements, price offers but also boosting its premium lines with treats like macarons. In contrast, online shoppers and strong clothing sales helped Sainsbury’s enjoy a record week over Christmas, whilst the company also pointed to its recent acquisition of catalogue retailer Argos, reporting that, in supermarkets where Argos concessions had been added, the stores enjoyed a 1% growth in sales.

John Nevens, joint managing firector of Bridgethorne, says that the encouraging Christmas retailer performance, which seems to demonstrate a recognition of changing shopper behaviour, should underpin the importance of suppliers accommodating these changes within their strategic planning if they are going to succeed long term.

“In a sense, a shopper is not just for Christmas. This is an important but exceptional period and suppliers and retailers need to continue influencing their shoppers’ journeys to and from the point of purchase all year round; importantly converting purchase intent into sales at the checkout.” says Nevens.

This, adds Nevens, is in part due to shoppers entering the market with different motivations, requirements and missions which dictate not only what they buy, but also where, how and when. This year’s results suggest a better accommodation of the different needs of each retailer’s respective shoppers.

“This is evident in Sainsbury’s performance, through online retailing and having Argos concessions in store meeting the continuing drive for convenience and in Tesco’s success with its Finest wines and its party food. Similarly, Morrisons also clearly recognised their shoppers having a desire to buy premium products for the Christmas period. The key for retailer and supplier alike is to leverage the insights gained over Christmas all year round.”

Brands and suppliers, Nevens adds, then need to share these insights with retailers to help inform a detailed and effective strategy for continued category growth.

“Specialist knowledge is worth its weight in gold and does more than anything to cement a good working relationship between supplier and retailer. Insights are crucial to the decision making process and contribute towards the overall success of a category. This approach offers mutual benefits for both parties.”