Covid has significantly altered consumer grocery shopping habits in the UK, with almost a third (31%) of UK consumers changing their primary store since lockdown, according to a survey from Shopmium, the FMCG mobile app. The study finds that almost one in five (18%) of shoppers switched their primary supermarket to Tesco, while more than one in 10 switched to Sainsbury’s (12%) and Morrisons (11%).

The way people shop is also evolving, with a significant reduction in-store visits but an increase in spend. This is despite more than a third (36%) saying their disposable income has decreased as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Spend on grocery shopping is up, with 41% spending more now than pre-lockdown

The number of respondents who have not visited a store in seven days or more was up by more than 50% compared to before the introduction of social distancing measures. There has also been a significant decrease in multiple weekly store visits, with the number of shoppers making three or more visits to stores in a seven day period decreasing by more than a quarter (27%). The number of shoppers visiting a store once a week has increased, however, from a quarter (25%) to a third (31%).

Despite a reduction in-store visits overall, spend is up – over a third (34%) said they have increased the amount they spend on their weekly shop by up to £50, while 7% has significantly increased the amount they spend beyond £50.

The other major change to shopping habits is that consumers now plan their shops – 88% of respondents use a shopping list when visiting a store. And for those consumers that use the Shopmium app to save money on their shop, over three quarters (77%) are pre-shop planning by browsing it at home before going to the supermarket.

What’s more, half (49%) of respondents plan to stick to their new shopping habits entirely, while 37% only anticipate small changes towards pre-lockdown habits. Just 14% said they will fully revert to how they shopped pre-lockdown. UK consumer feeling has changed towards visiting stores too, with six in 10 (59%) saying they feel different about shopping now, and three-quarters of these (74%) saying they feel more nervous.

Saving money on shopping bills is key for consumers, with nine in 10 (89%) saying the most important thing they would like to see from FMCG brands is discounted items. This far outweighs desire for other content grocery brands could provide such as recipe ideas, which only a quarter (26%) said they would like to see.

However, when it comes to recipe ideas, there are some interesting differences between what consumers were looking for in week three of lockdown as opposed to week 10. In mid April, three quarters of shoppers wanted inspiration for healthy (63%) and quick and easy (68%) meals, compared to only half (54%) and (51%) respectively, wanting the same at the end of May. There was also previously a bigger focus on cheap meal ideas, with almost half (46%) wanting to see these in week three, compared to less than a third (32%) in week 10.

Shopmium’s UK Head, Stuart Sankey, said: “Covid has changed shopping habits for good. Since lockdown and the introduction of social distancing measures, UK consumers have felt differently about going to stores, with many feeling nervous about the experience. Consequently, the UK has seen a reduction in the frequency of individual consumer visits but the good news for the FMCG sector is that spend appears to be going up.

“Now more than ever, it’s important for brands to listen to consumers, and help them address problems they may be facing. The fact that nearly a third of consumers have changed their primary supermarket is huge, and highlights a major opportunity for brands to win over consumers by responding quickly to their needs.

“With more than a third of consumers saying their disposable income has decreased as a result of coronavirus, and 89% saying they want to see discounts and money off products, FMCG brands must respond accordingly by increasing in-store and online offers. Brands that listen to consumers will enjoy the greatest gains, and not just for now but the foreseeable.”

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