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The big weekly shop is back; prompted by pandemic restrictions, people across the UK have been going to the supermarket less often and spending more when they do. With online sales booming, retailers have worked to dramatically and rapidly increase their online capacity. We explore the insights behind how the pandemic is changing the way the UK buys its food.

People in the UK have returned to the big weekly shop, visiting supermarkets less frequently but spending more when they do. On average, households shopped 14 times in April, down from the usual 17. The average spend per trip rose to £26.02, a record high. Tesco boss, Dave Lewis, notes this is a return to how people shopped 10-15 years ago, also remarking on the uptick in online sales. "We're trying to help as many people as we can. And the single biggest thing has been the change in online shopping," he commented. The greatest increase has been among older shoppers; over-65s spent 94% more on deliveries across March and April than they did a year ago.

People in the UK are visiting supermarkets less frequently but spending more when they do
Martijn Baudoin (2020) ©
E-commerce has long been viewed as the future of retail, with projections in 2019 suggesting it would account for 53% of sales by 2029. The changes to how people are shopping, prompted by lockdown measures, have accelerated the demand for online options and forced retailers to increase their e-commerce capacity - Tesco provided one million delivery slots in a week for the first time in April, for example. After initial panic-buying warped grocery spending figures – with expenditure increasing by 20.6% – current, more settled, supermarket trips are indicative of long term changes to how people shop in the UK.

The shift in shopping routines also reflects changing eating habits, with 43% of adults in the UK say they’re eating and cooking at home more than before COVID-19, driving up the demand for at-home meal kits. As shoppers increasingly turn online and opt for delivery services, there's a growing demand for innovations that optimise this, such as specialised, hygienic packaging from DS Smith.

Ellie Barber is a senior behavioural analyst at Canvas8. She has worked across the UK, US, Europe and Asia to unpick consumer behaviour for some of the world’s largest brands - finding herself on rooftops with Russian teenagers and eating hot pot with Shanghai’s streetwear community. When she’s not doing that, you can find her singing at weekly choir practises or attempting Ottolenghi recipes.


14 May 20
2 min read

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