Short-term anxiety around shopping in store continues to ease, EY’s latest Future Consumer Index reveals

UK consumers have grown more comfortable with returning to the shops, according to the latest EY Future Consumer Index, which finds comfort levels with traditional shopping behaviours – such as going to a shopping mall and trying on clothes or going to the grocery store – have all more than doubled since May.

Consumers comfortable going to a shopping mall has risen from 15% in May to 36% in July, and those comfortable trying on clothes has risen from 8% to 19%. Similarly, in May, 25% of UK consumers said they felt comfortable shopping in a grocery store, and in the July EY Future Consumer Index, that figure rose to 56%.

The survey of over 1,000 UK consumers found that UK consumer behaviour is changing as the pandemic progresses. Over the longer term, 56% intend to shop less frequently but spend more when they do shop, while 69% say they will be more mindful of hygiene and sanitation when shopping in person.

Silvia Rindone, EY UK&I Retail Partner, comments: “Retailers must be given credit for the active role that they have played. Consumers are much more hygiene conscious when they physically go shopping, and retailers have worked hard to respond by ensuring a variety of measures are in place to enable a safe shopping experience. This approach, taken together with bolstered online offerings, is clearly working, as the latest ONS figures show retail sales volumes have returned to pre-pandemic levels.”

Increased interest in own-brand goods

As the pandemic has progressed, consumer purchasing priorities have changed, with an increased focus on value and price. Half of consumers (50%) say price is now a more important consideration than it was a month ago.

More than two-thirds of UK consumers (67%) say they now have an interest in own-brand packaged food, which is higher than the Index’s global† average (51%). In the UK, 62% of consumers would consider own-brand home and household care products, compared to 49% globally. Within beauty and personal care, this figure is 43% (UK consumers), compared to 41% globally. Brand preference is highest in alcoholic beverages where only 37% of UK consumers say they are willing to purchase own-brand products. However, this is significantly higher than the global average of 22%.

Mona Bitar, EY UK&I Consumer Leader, comments: “Price has become more of a purchase criterion for UK customers than it was in April, when concerns over availability became more important. The proportion of people who now say they would consider buying supermarkets’ own-brand products is much higher than the current market share for such goods. Own-brand packaged foods only have a 37% market share at the moment, according to Euromonitor.

“Retailers have a unique opportunity to test, experiment and grow their own-brand offerings. They should give more thought to the brands stocked, focus on the right product ranges, and then reallocate resources according to priority. To better target promotional activity, retailers also need to improve tracking and understanding of consumer’s attitudes towards pricing and value for money.”

Silvia Rindone concludes: “Certainly, the fact that consumer anxiety is easing is a positive step towards recovery. However, with unemployment expected to rise following the ending of the furlough scheme in October, retailers need to carefully consider what will give them the edge on price and consumer affordability to thrive moving forward.”

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