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Since the coronavirus pandemic began, consumer behaviour has changed, with more shoppers seeing their local food shops and independent businesses in a new light. Support for independents has soared as they showed their value in terms of their unique offering, first-rate shopping experience and convenience for the customer.
This retail trend will not peter out – in fact, recent research by ThoughtWorks found that only half of Britons (49%) expect to buy their food from supermarkets or major retailers in the future.
In its 2030 Britain study, ThoughtWorks found that, after a year in and out of lockdown, more people are considering buying food directly from food producers or through online retailers. Just 32% of under-25-year-olds believe the future of food shopping will take place in a traditional supermarket, down from 58% in 2018.
Further research by the KPMG/Ipsos Retail Think Tank into the retail industry revealed that independent shops will become more prevalent in 2021. In its Outlook for 2021 report, Paul Martin, UK head of retail at KPMG, explains: “The home really has become the hub throughout 2020, and this will remain in place well into the New Year. This will only further boost local high streets, with independent and convenience retailers well positioned to take advantage of suburban and town regional centres throughout the working week.”
The report goes on to say that consumers will not be keen to spend more time in big supermarkets and major retailers, and will prefer supporting locally owned businesses or enjoying a convenient digital experience at independent shops. “Instead, increased use of convenience stores, local shopping and home delivery look set to be legacies of the pandemic that will continue to shape the food sector next year.” The shop local message will be around for the long term, it seems.
There is also evidence that the closer relationship between consumers and local food shops is reshaping how they think about their food.
According to ThoughtWorks, the shop local message has become an increasingly important issue to consumers, with 39% saying they will consider supporting local farmers when buying food, compared with 27% in 2018. Food provenance has also moved up the rankings, with 40% of respondents saying where their food comes from will be an important issue for them.
Of the top 10 ways people will buy food in 2030, buying from local food producers through ecommerce (34%), buying directly from farmers (27%) and buying from a local high street shop (26%) ranked third, fifth and sixth respectively.
Kevin Flynn, director of retail strategy at ThoughtWorks said these changes are taking place because food has been propelled to the front of the consumer agenda. “We are having far more family meals - food has become a hobby and we are taking much more interest in buying really good food from different places.
“To a certain extent, the pandemic has been the catalyst for some of the trends we saw pre-Covid whereby producers are able to go directly to the consumer and in equal measure consumers are thinking a lot more broadly about where their food comes from and so will go directly to their local producer instead of the big supermarket,” he continues. “One of the great things about the current climate is that there is extraordinary choice now, you don’t just have to go to the supermarket. You can source many different foods locally - items that had you visited a supermarket directly you may not have discovered before.”
Going forwards, however, Kevin adds that online shopping and ecommerce pose the biggest opportunity for independent retailers. “In Britain we really enjoy eating. The TV is filled back-to-back with cookery programs and recipe sections are dominating a lot of newspapers now. In short, the market is there and the challenge is really making sure retailers are showing their products in the way the consumer wants it,” he says.
“As Covid has made abundantly clear, producers have to have a digital presence because that’s the way people shop today. Therefore, as we enter the New Year, still living with the virus, having an online shopping option will be extremely important,” Kevin explains.
Retail Think Tank’s report also found that there is a big opportunity in ecommerce food retailing. “The home delivery and click-and-collect services, after seeing such increased uptake for the grocers in 2020, are set to remain popular [in 2020],” it said.
With independent retailers set to continue benefiting from the shop local revival in 2021, online shopping offers a new avenue for growth this year and beyond.
For more digital tips and advice for boosting ecommerce sales, download our Ultimate Guide to Online Retail for free here.