Shopping under lockdown

Dan Gillett
Shopper Insight Manager

Date : 11 June 2020

Part of IGD’s Shoppers of Our Time

Life changed for everyone under lockdown

Whether you are working from home, furloughed, or unemployed. Home-schooling, busier than usual or less busy. Postponing weddings, holidays or building plans. Life changed for everyone when lockdown was introduced on the 23rd March 2020, and the primary focus of our first two-week online community with our Shoppers of Our time households was exactly that - life under lockdown.

This blog and the report that goes with it is the first half of our findings, in which we look at how shopping for food and groceries changed under lockdown and what that could mean for your business in the future.

Shopper habits are changing at pace

COVID-19 has driven changes in shopper behaviour at a pace that, perhaps, has never been seen before. Most of these changes were forced upon shoppers, but after three months – and with no sign of social distancing in-store being lifted soon – could some of these forced changes become future habits?

It’s no secret, nor a surprise, that frequency of purchase is down and size of shop is up – that has been reported everywhere. Our community told us the same thing, with far fewer of them visiting a grocery store multiple times per week:

Frequency of shopping for food and groceries among the community, before and during COVID-19:

What this drop in frequency has led to is a considerable change in missions carried out when in-store, with bigger shops becoming the norm, much less food to go and a little more non-food purchases. 

But what has also changed is the amount of shopping around that happens, with shoppers visiting fewer stores and fewer channels to get the food and groceries that they need:

% of shoppers claiming to use 5 or more channels, over time% of shoppers claiming to use 5 or more channels, over time

All channels have seen a reduction in visitors according to our data, some greater than others.

The exception to this, perhaps unsurprisingly, is online – with nearly half of shoppers saying they had bought food and groceries in the last month, up from the longer-term trend of two fifths. But it is the type of shopper that has been buying online that caught our attention.

A new generation going digital – and another going analogue

Use of online stores has grown most in the group that, in normal times, we would expect to shop online least – the over 65s. The number of over 65s claiming to do most of their shopping online has grown nearly threefold since February, driven by the “shielding” policy that has meant many of these shoppers were unable to leave the house to go shopping. Retailers responded to this with more slots for vulnerable groups, and they appear to have been taken up.

But while these older shoppers were going online, at the same time we have seen 18-44-year olds visiting specialist retailers like butchers, fishmongers and greengrocers in greater numbers than before. Some of our community visited to support local businesses, while others visited because of a lack of availability in bigger stores. But of the shoppers who said they were visiting specialist retailers more, nearly 80% said they intend to continue to do so in future.

Things to consider

Undeniably, some of these changes will be short term and will move back to a more normal situation when social distancing measures are lifted. But the extent of the change, and the fact that those changes have been enforced for so long, means that for some these will be permanent changes.

Does a return to the weekly shop, with a potential drop in impulse buying as a result, affect your marketing plans? Does lower frequency present opportunities for alternative pack sizes? Does differentiation change in an environment with less shopping around? What is the impact for you of younger and older shoppers switching their preferred channels?

This is a time of challenges and opportunities – and only grasping the latter will help all of us overcome the former.

Shoppers of Our Time

This is the first report in a series of 20 from our brand new Shoppers of Our Time series.

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