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For many industries, the government’s announcement of a second lockdown may have scuppered festive trading plans – but not the fine food sector. For indie food retailers, there are a number of reasons to be optimistic.
The latest data from Springboard has shown that overall, 63.5% of Brits intend to spend less on Christmas this year than in 2019 – but when it comes to food and drink, they’re splashing out. The survey of 1,000 shoppers found that there will be more of a focus staying in to enjoy family time, with a third of shoppers planning to spend more on food and groceries.
Similarly, recent data on consumer behaviour across food and drink channels from Lumina Intelligence found that only 13% of shoppers are planning to buy less food and drink for Christmas meals than they did last year.
Further insights from Springboard’s survey shed more light on how fine food retailers can pull ahead in the run-up to Christmas.
Lockdown permitting, it is likely that consumers will hit the shops earlier this year when it comes to non-perishable food and drink. Nearly 69% of shoppers said they would look to start Christmas shopping earlier due to Covid-19 restrictions and queues. Marks & Spencer found earlier this month that searches for Christmas products on its website have soared by 80% year on year due to early shopping trends.
With non-essential retailers closed, more shoppers may also venture to fine food retailers to purchase gifts for friends and relatives. For these reasons, it’s imperative that stores ensure a safe shopping environment, as well as options for click and collect for those customers who are nervous about coming into the shop.
Despite the trend for early shopping, Lumina Intelligence found that 59% of consumers are waiting to see what restrictions will be in place before making their Christmas plans, which means that speciality food retailers may still experience a last-minute rush to the shops.
While Springboard predicts footfall across all UK retail destinations will be down 62% compared to 2019, the picture is better for local shops and retailers located in market towns, helped by the fact that workers are continuing to work from home amid the pandemic. For instance, for the six weeks from 22nd November to Boxing Day, footfall is expected to drop by nearly 90% in regional cities, whereas market towns are forecast to fall by 45%.
“The fact that many office-based workers are now working from home has severely impacted footfall in large city centres, which rely on office workers for footfall and spend, whilst smaller high streets including the outer regions of cities have retained more footfall as shoppers have time to visit shops locally,” explains Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard. “This has helped retailers located in smaller local high streets,”
The survey found that 62.8% intend to spend more in smaller and local shops this year, so independent retailers should look to capitalise on this trend by stocking products with local provenance and ensuring that customers are clued in through strong merchandising.
Shoppers are also paying more attention to their purses this year, with Lumina finding that value for money was important to 79% of consumers when purchasing food and gifts this Christmas.
“As uncertainty around the UK economy and the impact of coronavirus continues, shoppers
are looking to tighten their belts and limit unnecessary expenses. Focusing on value for money could be key to driving footfall this Christmas, rather than premium ranges,” explains Greta Glaveckaite, insight manager at Lumina Intelligence.
Prior to the lockdown announcement, Springboard found that 61.2% of consumers were planning to spend more online, while only 20.4% intended to spend more at bricks and mortar stores. In light of the return to lockdown in England, this will likely be even more pronounced in the lead-up to Christmas.
Independents have shown a strong ability to adapt to the challenges posed by the rising demand for online shopping by creating click and collect or call and collect systems, offering local delivery or teaming up with other local suppliers to offer a one-stop-shop for local residents.
“Having an online capability is definitely something that small, independent shops should invest in,” says Diane. “It means they have the greatest flexibility possible in being able to meet shoppers needs – even local shoppers may need or want to shop online at some point (eg. if they are self isolating).
In the middle of the first national lockdown, online spending rose to 33% of all retail spending. Once stores opened again in September, it had dropped down to 26%. Diane says that this pattern is likely to repeat itself again: “We will expect online [spending] to rise again – particularly as we are entering the peak Christmas trading period – but the majority of shoppers still purchase in-store (74% in September), and whilst online will undoubtedly increase during Lockdown 2 it will drop back a little once stores reopen I envisage that this will remain the case.”
Going forwards, ensuring your online shopping option is reliable is the best way to prepare for continued disruption caused by lockdown restrictions. “As the government continues to warn that it is too early to say what restrictions will be in place over the Christmas period, it is essential for retailers to prepare themselves for tighter restrictions to ensure if there is another national lockdown, they can continue to trade through other platforms such as online.”
Looking for more online tips? We’ve partnered with a number of leading experts to produce The Ultimate Guide to Online Retail to support food and drink retailers during this challenging time. Download a free copy here.