U.K. Food Retailers Now Need To Slow Shoppers Down Or Lose Share

Bricks & mortar retailers in the U.K. will soon see a surge of shoppers whoonce again feel safe in physical stores having avoided them for the past 14months. But this first contrast to online shopping will be disappointing unlessthe experience changes. Shoppers will not fall back in love with store shoppingbecause whilst touch and feel has appeal, the thrill of picking up an avocadoin person can’t match the simplicity and convenience of online.

Major multiple chain retailers need to engage these lapsed shoppers and givethem a clear reason to be loyal if they are to maintain some of the 15% likefor like shares they gained in lockdowns. The challenge is that entertainingshoppers isn’t so easy while they’re wearing masks. The sense of smell isdulled and vision is foggy, so touch, taste and imagination are left to do thework. Scotland has announced that masks will remain in retail after all otherlockdown restrictions are released and retailers do not want to see thisreplicated across the U.K.

Retailers need to disrupt behaviors learned during the pandemic. Having triedto speed shoppers up for months, stores now need to slow them down. They needto engage their imagination and get them reading packs to consider newpurchases. All this with their glasses steamed up.

So far I’ve seen no retailers striving to be this ‘media store’ – justcost-cutting, penny-pinching and compromised buying decisions based on thesuppliers who are prepared to prop them up with margin. Without some form ofreinvention from the mainstream multiples, Amazon and thediscounters Aldi and Lidl, will find stealing share as easy as taking candy,and indeed all other categories, from a baby.

Lockdown has presented a business ‘ground zero’ and supermarkets should not aimto rebuild what they had before. Unless of course they are a discounter, giventhe certainty that a huge demographic will be poorer. Knowing that Tesco andSainsbury’s marketing campaigns now advertise Aldi in their ‘price match’initiative, you know the discounters have got it right. Asda have seen this,and they are finally facing their reality after years under the wing ofWalmart, pitifully trying to gain the loyalty of shoppers who wentthere for cheap prices but now see a cheaper Aldi next door. Asda’s postpandemic choice is clear: get range and stock down, rent the space toconcessions and be a real discount player. EG Group, Asda’s new management, whoface criticism for their ‘precarious financing’, have a grocery game plan likeno other. Being giants in gas forecourts they simply have to wait for electriccars to take over and the time it takes to charge batteries rather than fill upwill hold shopper’s captive in their new convenience channel.