Consumers and grocers alike are under pressure on all sides: from a record 4.4% inflation, Canada’s household debt crisis, the rising price of fuel and transportation costs and ongoing supply chain issues, along with lingering effects of the pandemic on buying behaviour.
“There’s a lot of pressure right now that potentially is impacting growth [for grocery retailers], and CPG is not immune to the inflationary trend,” said Carman Allison, vice-president sales development, North America at NielsenIQ, at Canadian Grocer’s virtual GroceryConnex conference in November.
In his keynote, “Consumer Spending: Rewrite or Rerun?” Allison provided data-driven insights on the consumer shifts that will define 2022. There are “rewrites” or trends that will rewrite future growth opportunities, and “reruns” or pre-COVID trends that are coming back. Here’s a look at four key trends:
Stagflation with rising prices (Rewrite): Stagflation is defined as slow economic growth occurring alongside high rates of inflation. Allison said that’s happening now in the grocery industry, where we’re seeing higher prices (-1% dollar sales) and a low-growth environment (-4% consumption). For grocers considering price increases, Allison cautioned against blanket increases. “They don’t work,” he said. “Every single item in your portfolio has different price sensitivities and promotional effectiveness ... So you need to be more strategic on your pricing strategies.”
Buying on promotion (Rerun): Buying on promotion is almost back to pre-pandemic levels: 48.1% in 2021 compared to 50.3% in 2019. However, Allison said shoppers aren’t running around to different stores to buy what’s on sale. They’re doing one-stop shops and taking advantage of those in-store promotions. “Even though I’ve described promotional activity as a rerun, we have an opportunity to make this a rewrite,” said Allison. “There’s still a need to offer promotions to consumers, but we don’t want to have aggressive price cuts because that’s not a sustainable growth strategy.”
Spending continues to shift online (Rewrite): The shift to online grocery shopping was perhaps the most notable shift during the pandemic. Now, grocers should pay attention to “omnishoppers”: those who shop online and in-store. Allison said they’re a powerful cohort that spends 33% more per shopping trip and 29% less on promotion. “They’re shopping more for convenience and are less promotionally driven,” he said. Another trend is that food departments are leading online basket growth, at 63.4%. “The biggest shift we’re seeing is that consumers are becoming more comfortable with buying fresh [food] online,” said Allison. “They’re now trusting retailers to put those items in their baskets.”
Shopping discount retailers (Rerun): Discounter grocers’ share of wallet is almost at pre-pandemic levels (44% in 2021 versus 44.2% in 2019). While discounters offer lower price points than conventional grocers (about 14% less), they also carry about 10% fewer items. “If you’re going to have 10% fewer items, make sure you have the right items in that store because you need to focus on high-turnover items to drive retail sales and profit,” said Allison. “If you have products that are 14% lower priced, you have to sell 14% more items to make up for that lower sales potential as consumers shift over to discount.”
This article appeared in Canadian Grocer's December 2021/January 2022 issue.