Tesco says online deliveries have doubled in a month

Move to online grocery shopping during pandemic is 'irreversible' as three quarters of UK embrace it

‘What would have been a gradual upward climb in demand has turned into a trajectory more reminiscent of scaling Everest,’ says supermarket boss

Sarah Young@sarah_j_young
Thursday 20 August 2020 09:56

More than three quarters of people in the UK now do at least some online grocery shopping, according to Waitrose.

The supermarket chain said the growth in online food shopping was “reminiscent of scaling Everest” and that the shift could be “irreversible”.

It added that the change was largely due to the coronavirus lockdown, which began in March, as people sought to minimise the number of trips to supermarkets.

As part of a report titled How Britain Shops Online: Food and Drink Edition, Waitrose polled 2,000 people across the UK and found that 77 per cent do at least some of their grocery shopping online, compared with 61 per cent the year before.

The data also showed that one in four Brits now shop online for groceries at least once a week, which is double the amount in 2019.

Furthermore, 60 per cent of people said they now shop for groceries online more frequently since the pandemic, with 41 per cent citing convenience as the reason and one in five saying that they had not considered it before Covid-19.

The biggest shift towards online supermarket shopping was among over-55’s, where regular online shopping nearly trebled.

Last year, less than half of over-55s (47 per cent) did some of their food shopping online and this has since increased to 74 per cent.

There has also been a big shift in the shopping behaviours of 35-44 year-olds, with 32 per cent now doing at least one online shop each week, compared to 16 per cent in 2019.

The supermarket chain, which sells online via Ocado, said it expected the shift to become permanent.

“Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, there are few retailers that wouldn’t have predicted the continued growth of e-commerce relative to physical shops,” said James Bailey, Waitrose & Partners executive director.

“But what would have previously been a gradual upward climb in demand has, with the outbreak of Covid-19, turned into a trajectory more reminiscent of scaling Everest.”

He continued: “One in four of us now do a grocery shop online at least once a week – double the amount in 2019. Because online shopping quickly becomes habitual, these changes are irreversible.”

A separate piece of research by Retail Economics, on behalf of technology firm O2, found that almost half of consumers feel that the pandemic will have a permanent effect on the way they shop.

The research firm’s survey showed that 47 per cent of people think the number of times they shop online will definitely increase.

Richard Lim, chief executive officer of Retail Economics, said: “The impact of Covid-19 has re-wired the customer journey, leaving many retailers scrambling to assess the impact as they attempt to realign their proposition to meet a new normal.

“We've already witnessed a significant shift towards online and it's inevitable that some of these behaviours will become permanent, with digital playing a much more important role.”

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