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Why supermarkets should take note of our die-hard shopping habits

Although 10% of us have admitted to spending more on premium goods in the past year, only 38% believe they offer excellent quality, writes Craig Lawrie, director, head of digital, Initials Marketing.

Fewer than half of us believe that own-label is better than branded

Fewer than half of us believe that own-label is better than branded

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Tesco might be going through the share wars, not to mention a marketing reshuffle which was swiftly followed by last week’s boardroom shake-up, but the supermarket is still the most popular grocery store in every region of the UK except London, according to research from Initials Marketing, carried out by YouGov Sixth Sense.

Nearly one in three of us continue to do our primary shop at Tesco, whether the reason is as simple as proximity or more complex in terms of choice, availability and promotional offers.

What’s without doubt is that until recently, Tesco’s dominance meant it resonated with any social class anywhere in the country.

But the pressure on the domestic purse has led to resurgence in shoppers downtrading, especially among the ‘squeezed middle’ shopper heartland of supermarkets including Tesco, Sainsbury’s and even Asda.

As a result, these behemoths have responded with initiatives such as Tesco’s £500m Big Price Drop, Asda’s price pledge, and Sainsbury’s Brand Match.

Yet while our research chimes with the general trading picture - 29% of shoppers did buy more 'basics' goods and 31% bought fewer premium products over the past year as a direct result of the current economic downturn - it also reveals that our shopping habits are far more ingrained than we think.

Our sample of more than 1,800 respondents, taken from the socio-economic spectrum across the UK, also revealed that:

  • We aren’t changing where we shop - only around 3% vary their choice of retailer, so for all the talk about the flight from standard to budget supermarkets, we’re mainly still shopping at those stores which are large enough to offer us choice.
  • Most people’s shopping habits haven’t been adversely affected by current economic conditions - even though they realise that prices are increasing.
  • For more than half the population, the number of premium goods bought has remained the same over the past year, and the amount spent on branded groceries has either remained the same or increased.
  • Regardless of category, supermarket premium offerings (Tesco’s Finest et al) are not game-changing the market. We’d still buy standard or even branded alternatives: some 60% of us spent the same on brands as previously, with 8% of us increasing out spend.
  • Although 10% of us have admitted to spending more on premium goods in the past year, only 38% believe they offer excellent quality.
  • Fewer than half of us believe that own-label is better than branded. In fact, C2DE think branded is better and is the only demographic that is actually trading up and increasing spend on brands.
  • That the ‘squeezed middle’ is feeling the pinch is incontestable, with families more likely to be reducing spend on premium goods.
  • Today, only one in five men still don’t play any role in supermarket shopping - suggesting that the 80% of mainly younger men should be as important a target market as shopper mum.

So for all the talk about the flight from standard to budget supermarkets, it seems that those other ‘hygiene’ factors of availability, choice, proximity and service are as important as price in determining where we choose to do our supermarket shopping.

Tesco’s new UK marketing director David Wood would appear to have more his favour than might seem apparent at first sight - as indeed do Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrison’s et al.

Craig Lawrie, director, head of digital, Initials Marketing


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