Supermarkets are dead. Long live supermarkets!

Those who wrote off ‘old-fashioned’ supermarkets when everybody shopped online because of the pandemic may need to rethink.


One of the biggest questions about the changes in consumer behaviour that happened during the Covid-19 pandemic was also the simplest: would the changes stick, or would we go back to how things used to be?

As with many questions, the truest answer is ‘it depends’. 

For example, while employees are gradually going to their offices more often now, the days of commuting five days per week may never be seen again. A recruitment consultant recently told me that demanding five days in the office of potential candidates only ensures that they don’t apply for the job.

Yet, when it comes to retail, some of the old ways may be returning. Of course, in-store workers can’t work from home – but customers can shop from home.


BBC News: “Sainsbury’s says almost everyone now shops in store.”


However, you are not mistaken if you feel you have seen fewer grocery delivery vans out and about lately. In its most recent results statement, Sainsbury’s pointed out that the sudden pandemic boost in online orders was gradually reversing. More than a fifth of its sales were online at the height of the pandemic, but they have now fallen to around 13%.

Have shoppers turned their backs on the weekly grocery delivery? Some have. It’s important to remember that not everybody who ordered their groceries online actually wanted to.

Old or vulnerable consumers were advised to shop online if possible, to avoid contact that might spread Covid. That increased uptake of online shopping in a rapid and novel fashion that had never really happened before. Groups of people that large simply don’t change their habits overnight unless something extremely unusual happens.

If you are a busy working family that is short of time, a weekly grocery delivery is a hugely welcome thing. If you are retired and looking for an excuse to get out of the house, not so much. Arguably the bulk of customers fall somewhere between those two groups; as many of us do commute less and  work from home more, an impulse trip to a physical supermarket isn’t so unwelcome.

Those who wrote off the humble supermarket may have to reassess their views. It looks likely that we will find a place for these stores for a little longer yet.

Banner EN