Pandemic has forced shoppers to become more planned – larger shops, less often and fewer treats for most anxious, research finds

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Top-up shopping now on hold

New research from shopper insights specialist Shoppercentric has shown that the seemingly irreversible rise of the top-up shopper – a growing trend for more than 25 years – appears to have been halted, with a 60% increase in a ‘main shop only’ approach and a similar decrease in the number of us rarely or never doing a main shop.  

According to its 2021 Stock Take Report, at the start of the pandemic, ‘main shop only’ missions increased from 27% to a massive 57% of chosen shopping styles. Although this has since slipped back to 43%, it suggests that whilst shoppers may be edging back towards pre-pandemic trends, this may not fully happen until society returns to a more hectic daily life.  In January 2020, 17% of shoppers claimed that they completed ‘small shops only’. This figure remains at just 6%. In-depth qualitative research interviews conducted throughout the pandemic have also confirmed that shopping has become more planned.  

“Shopper behaviour has been disrupted because of influences both inside and outside the store,” explains Jamie Rayner, managing director, Shoppercentric. “Shoppers may have been navigating unfamiliar stores, avoiding other shoppers, following one-way systems and going through cleaning regimes. Outside the store, household consumption changes have driven the need to consider more meals, new ways to snack and support scratch cooking. Each in itself does not sound profound, but cumulatively they have added to the cognitive load on the shopper.”

In addition, as anxiety levels have risen and fallen during successive lockdowns, so the impact on food-led treating patterns has also become clearer. 53% percent of more worried shoppers (compared with average shoppers at 39%) say they have cut back on sweet treats as they have had to tighten up financially. Similarly, 62% of more anxious shoppers (compared with 44% on average) believe that less indulgence is a good thing. 54% of the more anxious shoppers have also been diligently stocking their freezers more than usual. Just 34% of the less anxious have made the same decision to stock up. As shoppers have become used to using stores in a re-purposed way, now that retail is reopening, they need stores to help them navigate well, to free up time for them to be inspired to fulfil their newer consumption needs, and, in so doing, to facilitate spontaneous and pleasurable shopping once again.