COVID-19 continues to spur retail innovation

July 20, 2021
4 min read

Although nearly all COVID-19 restrictions across England are at last lifted this week, consumers’ shopping habits won’t be the same as they were pre-pandemic. The retail landscape is changing due to emerging, innovative formats that came into play over the past year. In this collaborative blog, Mintel retail and foodservice experts discuss the retail trends and innovations that emerged from the pandemic, and explore which consumer habits will continue now that legal restrictions are lifted.

Nick Carroll, Associate Director of Grocery and E-commerce Research: 

Online shopping will see a legacy boost

The online channel has naturally been the big ‘winner’ during the pandemic. Sales soared by nearly 50% topping £110bn in 2020, and nearly half of shoppers have shopped more online since the pandemic hit. With life returning to something more closely resembling ‘pre-pandemic, online use will naturally drop back a little – indeed, some online shoppers might revert to pre-pandemic levels of use once the peak of the pandemic passes. However, over a quarter say they plan to continue to shop online more – even once the pandemic eases.

Source: Unsplash

Localised purchasing will gain importance

While online will see a legacy boost, there is a real desire from shoppers to return to physical shopping. Although currently (10-17 June 2021), many people are still trying to limit their time in-store, the majority of consumers have missed shopping as part of a day out.

However, this doesn’t mean that there will not be significant changes in how we shop in-store. In-store shopping during the peak of the pandemic has naturally become more localised, with people shopping more in their local area since the pandemic began – so localised purchasing will also be given a legacy boost. Key to this is the likely continued flexibility in working habits in the short-to-medium term – bringing retail purchasing closer to home. 

 Trish Caddy, Senior Foodservice Analyst:

In-store fast-casual concepts

As the saying goes, if you can’t beat them, join them. Given that supermarkets are one of the chief beneficiaries from the turn to remote working since the start of the pandemic, it makes sense for fast-casual concepts to set up outposts within retail venues, as one in five of those who expect to eat in at a limited-service restaurant feel encouraged to try a food outlet/restaurant inside of a retail store, according to upcoming Mintel research on fast-casual restaurants.

People’s interest in eating inside of a retail store is largely driven by their desire for a place to re-fuel while they shop, and therefore nearly half of Britons agree that a limited-service restaurant inside of a retail shop provides shoppers a place to relax in-store.

From a retailer’s perspective, in-store catering can help enhance the shopping experience and increase dwell time, allowing shoppers to add extra items into their shopping basket. A fast-casual concept, wherein customers order from a counter and have food delivered to their table and/or that features fresher ingredients, will play nicely into the resurgence of in-store catering in supermarkets.

In May 2021, Pret A Manger announced its plans to open four new stores inside Tesco supermarkets. The first concession Pret outpost opened in June 2021 at Tesco’s Kensington supermarket, with the other three planned for later in the summer. This concession deal follows the launch of Pret’s first supermarket range, including ready-to-bake frozen croissants and granolas across 700 Tesco supermarkets in early 2021.

Pret’s bake-at-home croissants can now be found in Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons

Source: Instagram, @pret

At the same time, Sainsbury’s announced that it was going to launch the first of three new Carluccio shop-in-shop concepts on 3 June 2021. The new format is the first time the dining brand has ventured into a supermarket retail partnership. The new 900 square foot Caffè Carluccio store was launched in Sainsbury’s St Albans superstore where it provides customers with eat-in and takeaway options as well as a retail range including biscuits, coffee and chocolates.

 Carluccio’s also opened a self-serving coffee machine in Budgens, Abingdon, selling pastries and coffee to go

Source: Mintel

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