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Over 50% of UK Shoppers are Concerned about Food Shortages for Christmas

December 21, 2021

  • 71% have noticed stock shortages in the last three months
  • Across the whole pandemic, consumers believe retailers have done well to maintain stock levels of food
  • Online shopping has grown in prominence, with only 57% of consumers planning to buy in store going forward, down from 78% in pre-pandemic Britain

LONDON – 17th December 2021 – Less than half of UK shoppers have confidence that retailers will be able to avoid food shortages this Christmas. This is according to new research of 2000 UK consumers from end-to-end managed services provider Ensono. The findings from Ensono – which serves well-known brands in the food, grocery, and retail sectors in the UK – show that customers have already seen a change on the shelves: 71% say they have started to notice shortages in stock in major supermarkets over the last three months.

These more recent concerns come on the back of 18 months of lockdowns, fluctuating demand and supply disruption that have challenged the grocery sector. Customers are full of praise for how grocers navigated this challenging period. When lockdown restrictions were lifted in July, 71% of customers had at least 80% of their regular grocery list available to buy in-store or online – this rose to 80% when customers reflected on grocery availability today.

Overall, 84% of those surveyed agree that major supermarkets have done well to maintain stock levels throughout the pandemic. Similarly, 61% of UK consumers believe that supermarkets hired enough staff in the pandemic to meet demand.

The Shift Online

The COVID-19 pandemic has altered consumer buying habits, with lockdowns encouraging many to avoid in-person shopping and use online services instead. In the pre-pandemic world, 78% of consumers either did all or most of their food shopping in store. During lockdowns, this figure decreased to 49%, only recovering to 57% when shoppers consider their long-term grocery shopping plans after lockdown and beyond. Online shopping has been the major beneficiary: Ensono’s research found an 81% rise pre and post lockdown in UK consumers doing all or most of their food shopping online.

This trend is strongly reflected in the buying habits of consumers over the age of 65. The proportion of this age group buying all groceries in store halved from 62% to 31% during lockdown, before rising to 44% post lockdown. The pandemic has had a lasting impact, with only 39% of over 65s planning to continue purchasing their groceries solely in store.

Consumer loyalty has fluctuated across the pandemic. Over three-quarters of UK consumers (79%) have tried an alternative grocer, following their experience with their normal grocer during lockdown. A significant proportion of customers are still shopping with alternative grocers, even after restrictions were lifted. A quarter of respondents said convenience and flexibility encouraged them to stick with their alternative grocer, and 36% intended to shop with an alternative grocer for certain fresh products.

Simon Ratcliffe, Principal Consultant at Ensono commented “Over the last 18 months, retailers have faced a ‘perfect storm’ of challenges, including lockdowns, unprecedented consumer demand, and a complex web of global supply chain disruption. In many ways they have risen to the challenge, keeping inventories stocked and becoming an invaluable source of stability for consumers.

“With customers fearful of shortages this Christmas, retailers need to deliver a consistent and reliable customer experience for shoppers – both online and in-store. Customer loyalty is currently very fluid, so grocers who can navigate this period successfully have a great chance to build a loyal cohort of customers into the new year.

“Technology will be essential for this new era of retail. The pandemic has pushed more customers than ever before to shop online, making investment in a strong digital offering essential for grocers. This begins with customer-facing services, building applications suited to customers hungry for engaging and convenient multi-device access to retailers’ service. It then extends into a company’s back-end technology, tapping into the flexibility and scalability offered by public cloud. Indeed, in a world of supply chain disruption, the high-capacity and reliable mainframe systems continue to serve grocers well in key areas like inventory management.”

*Editor’s note: Ensono surveyed 2,009 UK consumers on their grocery shopping habits over the last 18 months.

About Ensono

Ensono helps IT leaders to harness the power of hybrid cloud to transform their businesses. We collaborate with our clients to drive better business outcomes through purpose-built, workload-optimized technology solutions. Our expertise spans across all business-critical platforms, from mainframe to cloud, so we can meet clients wherever they are in their digital transformation journeys, offering 24/7 support. We are certified experts in AWS, Azure and Google Cloud, and recognised as Microsoft Datacenter Transformation Partner of the Year. Ensono has over 2,600 associates around the world, with its UK offices in Caerphilly and Staines-upon-Thames, as well as offices in the United States, Germany, Poland and India. Visit us at www.ensono.com.

Media contact:
Jessica Davis
[email protected]

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