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Changes in grocery shopping habits due to recession are overstated

07 October 2013

Over the last five years, the majority of UK adults have made significant changes in the way they shop for groceries. According to a new survey from Canadean Custom Solutions, it is wrong to only link these changes to the recession. Instead, evolving consumer attitudes towards health and value, changes to household structures and confidence towards alternative shopping channels have been just as influential drivers of change.

A total of 85% of UK adults have made changes to their grocery shopping habits over the last five years, according to a survey by Canadean Custom Solutions. The three most popular changes made to shopping habits have been to take greater advantage of price drops (45%), start to shop at discounters (38%) and cut back on items deemed non-essential (34%).

The survey finds that the impact of the recession on people’s shopping habits might have been over estimated. Of those who have changed their shopping habits over the last five years, only 50% say they have done so purely to save money as a result of the recession. Instead the changing shopping habits have been driven by other factors such as the desire to get healthier (34%) and savvier perceptions of product value (31%). Changes in grocery shopping habits have also been driven by greater confidence in alternative stores compared to retailers, changing household structures and the evolution of technology. 15% say their shopping habits have changed as a result of improved perceptions of the quality of discounters, 13% because of changes to the number of people living in their home and 10% because of improvements to supermarket online shopping sites.

Most changes in shopping habits are long-term with shoppers expecting to keep these changed habits, irrespective of the state of the economy. 85% of shoppers say that they have continued to cut back on non-essentials over the last five years and 91% will continue to do so over the next five years. A total of 84% say they have continued to shop at discounters over the last five years, whilst 96% will continue to do so over the next five years. Finally, 94% are trying to take advantage of price drops and 98% plan to do the same over the next five years.

Michael Hughes, Research Manager at Canadean Custom Solutions says, “over the last five years, there has been much research published about changing shopping habits and people trying to reduce spend on groceries. Whilst issues such as the recession and food inflation cannot be ignored, it is not accurate to say all these habits have been driven by the recession. Evolving attitudes to health and value, combined with changes in the grocery retail landscape, advances in technology and evolving household structures have also been catalysts for change”.

Hughes concludes “any retailer or manufacturer who believes shoppers have changed their shopping habits purely to save money and will revert back once economic conditions pick up, are becoming increasingly misaligned with the attitudes and behaviours of shoppers”.

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