Covid and the Impact on Grocery Retail

Covid and the Impact on Grocery Retail

Grocery Retail in a Pandemic

I’ve been lucky enough to have an wonderfully talented, up and coming Retail Manager interning with me at The Retail Advisor over the last few months. As his final task, I asked Declan Kilboyle to describe the impact Covid-19 has had on the Irish Grocery Sector. Declan, like many of our unsung heros has worked tirelessly with his collegues to keep our shelves stocked over the last year.

The pandemic has changed the very nature of the retail workforce with particular focus on the food and retail sector.

Few sectors of the economy have been as affected by Covid-19 as the retail sector with ‘non-essential’ stores forced into prohibited closure for extended periods under government guidelines which can be seen as a trend that has been mirrored both nationwide and worldwide. Subsequently we have seen a dramatic shift to online demand resulting in the further development of e-commerce in the grocery sector.

While food based retailers enjoyed a period of booming sales as people decided to ‘stock up’ on some rather outlandish items such as toilet roll in the fear of the unknown. The shift to online shopping hasn’t been quite as smooth as expected for many as customers can be very reluctant to shop online, for many years you would do your daily or weekly shop in a physical store where you could see the product in the flesh rather than looking at it through a screen. 

On the other hand we have seen that customers enjoy and embrace the sheer convivence of completing your weekly shop with a touch of a button (literally).

Online ordering has given the consumers a quick and effective way to complete their shop by allowing them to simply search the products they are looking for rather than wandering through aisles in the hope of finding the item in a physical store.  It has also allowed stores to identify and personalize a consumers shop for instance if a customer is searching a steak they also might get a recommendation for an accompanying sauce which may encourage customers to purchase something they wouldn’t have usually purchased. 

This in turn will increase sales.

Shopping Trolley

We can see its not just how the customers methods of shopping have changed its also what they are purchasing. 

With restaurants closed and people staying at home it is inevitable more and more people are having a crack at home cooking which in turn has caused people to buy more items. The trend of ‘popping to the shop’ has definitely decreased with more and more people wanting to minimise social contact, people seem to visit stores less often but unquestionably spend more when they do. It has been a reoccurring pattern that people seem to be stocking up on comfort foods that are cheap and foods that have an extended shelf life. 

Non-perishable foods give consumers a piece of mind that they will always have something in case of a sudden emergency although retails have strongly advised people not to bulk buy that is always a constant flow of goods being delivered on a daily basis, people prefer a safety net to fall back on. Due to people minimising their social contact with others they spend less time in the store. Most shoppers have their trusted items they purchase on a regular basis and are less likely to browse the store.

To match the changing trends, many grocery stores are focused mainly on restocking their best-selling shelf-stable items instead of branching out with new brands and products. 

Stores are also changing their habits their end goal is to make shopping a simple and seamless experience for the consumer having the essentials at their fingertips. Stores have also adapted to the elderly who are high risk and have allotted a time for them to visit the store daily in our case our store its from 9am-11am. This alone provides them with the security of shopping in a safe environment.

Grocery Shopping in a Pandemic

Covid-19 has taught consumers of the importance of value for money.

From income cut backs to being temporarily laid off from your job the effects of the pandemic are rippling over our spending habits in ways that could have long term effects. 

In terms of the grocery sector people are more inclined to purchase items that they might not necessarily need but because these items are on offer for example 3 for the price of 2, half price or save 33% these types of promotions have always been present in stores but due to the pandemic these are more sought especially in fresh meat department sales. People are going to purchase more of these items then they usually would and freeze them as it is better value for their money. People are more inclined to budget their money. 

The sales of alcohol have increased significantly. The pubs are closed but people are still drinking at home. Studies suggest people are spending almost twice as much drinking at home in a pandemic week versus a normal week.

Personally from my own experience in our store one of the biggest changes I have noticed is public holidays have become a greater importance to everyone. In regards to the sales and demands of certain products for example Easter Eggs sold out days in advance which in my experience in retail has never occurred and this seemed to happen nationwide.

In conclusion to my above points the past year and a half will go down in retail history. Nobody knows what the future in grocery retail will hold but I am sure it will be full of new trends and patterns in consumer behaviour and it is something I personally am looking forward to.

You can contact Declan here for more information.