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Retail Insights

Covid-19 Differences in Shopping Locale

We all know that Covid-19 has driven huge changes in our shopping habits for groceries but where have the changes been more or less significant? Our data spans the whole of the independent C-store sector around the UK, in city centres, residential and rural areas.  We’ve looked at each of these different store locations to see whether this has an impact on our shopping habits. Urban and rural stores are classified as per Postcode Geography provided by ONS. Transient and Neighbourhood store-types are defined by a calculation based on daytime and night time population ratio.

On average, stores in all locations have seen a rise in year on year figures, though not all convenience sector businesses have done well: 50% of independent c-stores in transient locations (18% of all c-stores) suffered a sales decline during the lockdown (23 March – 10 May) compared with the pre-pandemic weekly average (10 February – 8 March).

The biggest rise has been seen amongst stores in urban neighbourhoods, where the local population exceeds 10,000 people. The lowest average rise is amongst transient stores, where people would ordinarily visit on their journey to and from work and school. The loss of the school trade has certainly been one of the factors responsible for lower transaction numbers recorded, and school children will surely have surplus change in their pockets as they’re unable to visit their favourite sweet shops. Rural transient stores, those within small towns or amongst smaller groups of stores, have seen a drop in year on year sales of 35% on average on chocolate and sugar confectionary due to lockdown.

Alcohol sales are up 99% year on year over the same period across the whole estate. In this category stores in urban neighbourhoods have seen the biggest increases though not significantly more than other locales, with year on year sales up on average 103%.

Alcohol Sales, 2019 and 2020
Footfall, measured in number of transactions, is down, but individual customers are spending more. Stores in rural neighbourhoods have seen the biggest drop in footfall by week yet the biggest year on year weekly change in average sales. However, that has also been reflected in the biggest average increase in basket spend per week. Average basket spend is up by 43.1% for all stores but stores in rural neighbourhoods have seen a rise of 56.6%. Rural neighbourhoods tend to have a higher proportion of older residents so the rise could be due to decisions to avoid busier stores and supermarkets.
With the relaxation of lockdown rules in week 20, by week 22 (w/c 26th May), we can see that Rural Transient and Urban Transient stores are now gaining back their custom as people return to work.

What are the implications of these figures for retailers and suppliers?  For retailers, it should help to explain what’s been going on in their area, and one simple practical point is:  “With increased basket spend being very clear, if you don’t have shopping baskets in your store, you will be limiting the number of items that customers can buy in one transaction.”  For suppliers, it should highlight the importance of segmenting and targeting the stores that will work best for your category.

We produce a weekly report to give visibility on the changes in c-store shopping during the Covid-19 lockdown and the “new normal”, offering valuable insight to marketeers and business leaders.
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