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Shoppers now more likely to buy groceries online, and 70% say they’ll continue to do so after Covid-19: Waitrose

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Shoppers are now more likely to buy their groceries online – and 70% say they’ll keep doing so after Covid-19, according to a new report from Waitrose. The pandemic pushed more shoppers online,  and that’s one of the changes to the way we buy food that’s now here to stay, it suggests. 

A quarter bought groceries online for the first time this year, the Waitrose Food & Drink report finds, and almost 70% say they’ll keep doing it. Almost four in 10 (39%) said they had used alternative online food delivery services, from Deliveroo to recipe box companies. Ten per cent shop for food only once a fortnight – up from 4% in 2016 – and 47% shop once a week (35% in 2016), while the number buying either two or three times a week (35% from 51% in 2016), or every day (4% from 7%) has fallen. Some 60% say the changes they’ve made to the way they buy this year will stick.

The report, which questioned 2,000 UK adults via OnePoll, found that nearly half have gone cashless during the pandemic and intend to keep that up. In Waitrose’s own shops, 10% of transactions are now paid for in cash, down from 22% previously.

James Bailey, executive director at Waitrose, says: “Our daily rituals, our attitudes towards supermarkets and the way we shop have been fundamentally reshaped by the pandemic. These changes are here to stay. The ‘new normal’ that we all spoke about back in the spring isn’t new anymore. It’s just normal.”

Waitrose was among the supermarkets that increased capacity for online deliveries as a result of the pandemic. It now offers more than 200,000 slots a week – almost four times the number it had before that. The retailer says its two-hour delivery Waitrose Rapid service has grown fivefold during the last year.

The study also found that cooking is now the new commute for 74% of those who now work from home. They say it provides a break between work and home time, while 30% plan to reduce the number of cars their household runs. Some 70% say they now value the work of supermarket workers more than they did at the start of the year, and 61% say they are more conscious about how they spend money – although 77% are concerned about the economy. And more than half (55%) say they’ve changed their spending habits for good, while 58% have been secretly pleased not to have to go out. Food and drink trends including winter BBQs, foraging and spritzers.

The study asked shoppers what they thought about the future of farming. Almost three-quarters (74%) said they wanted to see more UK food businesses support local British producers, while 60% were concerned that the UK’s food standards would fall following the UK’s departure from the EU, and wanted to see them protected. Still more (73%) say they will only buy meat reared in the UK in the event of a trade deal with a country outside the EU, and that they will buy more organic produce if there is a deal with a country that uses more pesticides. The same proportion say that while affordability is important it should not come at the expense of British standards. 

The latest ONS Retail Sales report, for October, found that shoppers spent nearly twice as much on online groceries in October (+99.2%) as they did a year earlier, although the growth rate was only slightly higher (+0.4%) than in September. Some 10.4% of grocery sales took place online in October – up from 5.4% in pre-pandemic February.

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