Self-isolating Consumers Favour Weekly Stock-ups as They Forego Top Up Trips

Shopper behaviour has changed rapidly during the peak coronavirus quarantine as consumers attempt to adapt to a ‘new normal’. This week, we consider how under social distancing conditions, supermarket shoppers have adjusted their shopping habits and schedules with a return to the traditional weekly shop.

Prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus, hectic lifestyles saw shoppers visiting supermarkets approximately twice per week.  With shoppers stopping in to pick up food throughout the week, the top up mission – whether planned or distress - accounted for 37% of missions. Meanwhile, only 29% of shoppers were visiting supermarkets for a main weekly shop.

Surprisingly, frequency of visits to supermarkets saw a peak in week commencing 30 March as shoppers, having spent one week in lockdown likely adjusted to new routines and prepared for the weeks ahead, as they adjusted to more scratch cooking and avoiding social interaction. 

Now in the second phase of government lockdown and limited to delivery and home cooking, shoppers are reducing the number of trips to grocery stores and need to more actively plan their meals for the whole week. In addition, with increased numbers of us working from home, a quick stop-off at the supermarket on the way home from work is no longer part of the routine and so shopping trips need to be more planned. 

As frequency declines, so too does the top up mission.  By week commencing 20 April, only 22% of shoppers visited supermarkets on top up missions, a 40% decline since pre-coronavirus.  The weekly shop, on the other hand, has seen a resurgence, with 39% of shoppers purchasing for the week ahead, in comparison to 29% prior to the outbreak.

The meal for tonight mission, over-indexing most strongly amongst younger consumers aged 18-24 at 15% share of all of their shopping missions, now accounts for just 3% of the missions for this age group. This group is still less likely to conduct a main weekly shopping trip though, at 25% (vs. 39% for the overall population).  Similarly, one third of shoppers aged 25-34 relied heavily on top up missions prior to the lockdown, while now only 19% venture out to top up.

The stockpile mission, a mission unheard of two months ago, is also driven by the 25-34 age group, accounting for 14% of missions.  A similar trend is seen amongst older consumers, with more vulnerable shoppers over the age of 75 driving the shift to the weekly shop, which has increased in mission share for this age group from 35% to 50%. 

This change in shopper missions is also reflected in the items appearing in supermarket baskets, or, more aptly, trolleys, as shops grow in size.  Fresh meat and fish have been the biggest winners, appearing in 111% more shopper baskets in the week commencing 20 April than in February. And as shoppers snack at home, rather than on the go, crisps and snacks are appearing in 56% more baskets than pre-lockdown. 

With HIM & MCA Insight’s Channel Pulse predicting a +48% swing towards increased consumer usage of supermarkets next week, the increased dependence on the main shop highlights the importance of maintaining stock levels and clear communication with shoppers on product availability.


Insight reports featured in this article

UK Recovery Report 2020

Business implications for grocery and hospitality market stakeholders


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