Brits Leaving Supermarkets Behind

Mar 23, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson

New research from Mintel says British consumers are increasingly moving away from supermarkets to do their food shopping in the traditional, small grocery store.

According to the research, 21 percent of consumers preferred the small shops to supermarkets and only 52 percent respondents said they did all their grocery shopping in supermarkets.

Paul Rickard, director of research at Mintel, told The Herald: “There is clearly a belief that local traders should be supported rather than allowing the supermarket giants to dominate.

“Some (consumers) may resent the fact that because of the supermarkets, local traders are disappearing and our high streets are losing their individual character. Others may feel that they can buy better quality, fresher produce from these local traders and markets.”

Andrew Firth, owner of the Herbie of Edinburgh delicatessen, said, “There is a definite movement back to traditional shops. People are getting bored by the fact that when they go into supermarkets, the specialist knowledge and advice on offer is limited.”

Mhairi Taylor, who owns Delizique, a “deli-market” in Glasgow, said businesses such as hers are simply delivering what consumers want. “More people now care about where their food comes from. It’s been a gradual build-up from the era of the BSE crisis to the recent Sudan 1 scare,” she said. “Our business is about love, passion, and respect for food. We are the new incarnation of traditional grocers.”

Moderator’s Comment: Do you see a similar movement in the U.S. to the U.K. where consumers are shopping at smaller “corner grocers” and specialty shops
instead of at supermarkets, supercenters, clubs, etc.? Do you know of any small store grocers worth mentioning? What makes them special?

George Anderson – Moderator

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4 Comments on "Brits Leaving Supermarkets Behind"

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Ron Margulis
15 years 11 months ago

I would like to see corner grocers be a sort of hybrid between supermarkets and c-stores. I believe they have a future, particularly in suburbia, where convenience is most important. Also, as online food shopping grows, staples will be delivered to the home, and the corner grocery that emphasizes prepared foods and fresh ingredients will be even more attractive to consumers. Quick in, grab the prepared meal for tonight and the ingredients for tomorrow’s lunch and dinner, quick out — is a trend to watch.

Karen Kingsley
Karen Kingsley
15 years 11 months ago

People are still going to supers for basic supplies and nonperishables (if they’re not getting these items at Wal-Mart or Costco). However, the sameness of most supers, the lack of service and the annoyance of shopping superstores appears to be driving many shoppers to smaller retail outlets. I recently did a – pretty informal – study of consumers across the country, and Nielsen data seems to support the notion that the more choice consumers have the more choice they demand. People seek the quality, variety and support they receive in smaller stores. it’s just a trickle now, but except for larger families, who really have little choice, I think we will see more and more migration this way.

Valerie Lenardson
Valerie Lenardson
15 years 11 months ago

Speaking as a consumer, I have already changed my shopping habits. I job at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods – rarely do I go into the supermarkets. I get large items at Costco and my weekly shopping is done at the smaller stores. I like the natural foods and I like the quaint atmosphere and the service at the smaller stores. They make you feel like a ‘neighbor’ much like it was when I was growing up in Troy, NY. I now live in LA and I much prefer the small stores. The shoppers are leaving the large supermarkets and they better get on track or they will be heading for the biggest train wreck yet!

Bernice Hurst
15 years 11 months ago
I’m not entirely convinced that this is true, realistic or accurately interpreted. Yes, there are many people who prefer to go to smaller stores near where they live or work. Yes, there is more demand for quality and traceability. Yes, there is less of a tendency to stock up on food in the UK than in the US; most people were brought up to shop little and often. BUT this is not always a convenient or easy way to live. There aren’t a lot of people with a lot of time and it has been a hard, uphill slog to persuade shoppers that fresh is best and quality worth paying for. On the other hand, there is a strong feeling of loyalty within communities and our supermarkets (relatively few of which are anything like the size of the average US store) not as easily accessible as yours. In addition, there are problems getting groceries home over here. We do not all have as many cars as you do, making out of town shopping harder and… Read more »

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