How Lockdown May Reform Shopping Habits

Jane Werrell
By Jane Werrell
June 7, 2020UK

Empty shelves in the supermarkets at the start of the lockdown meant many people turned to their local independent shops to stock up. But the trend to shop locally could continue even after restrictions are eased.

Michael Jones owns a local butchers and a cheese shop, and co-owns a fishmongers in Greenwich, southeast London. He said he’s seen sales double since the lockdown, and customers just keep coming back.

“All the businesses have had a similar lift in trade. I think the fish shop has actually had the largest increase in trade,” he said. “We’ve been selling loads of lobsters.”

He says cheese and wine, “things that people want in a crisis,” have also been selling well.

A YouGov poll about how the virus crisis has changed food attitudes found more than 19 million, or 38 percent, of British people are cooking from scratch more, and 17 million, or 33 percent, are throwing away less food. The poll, commissioned by the Food, Farming, and Countryside Commission, found that just 9 percent wanted everything to go back to how it was before the pandemic.

“Those independent businesses on those smaller provincial high streets have a real opportunity to do well. Because I think it will take a while for the city center … to recover that lost ground,” said Andrew Goodacre, CEO of the British Independent Retailers Association.

“It will naturally continue I believe because social distancing is still an element of this lockdown process,” he added. “So we fully expect local consumers to make full use of their local shops.”

Recent analysis shows an increase in sales of sausage and bacon—staples of a traditional English breakfast.

‘Huge shift’

Local shoppers told NTD they’ll continue shopping locally after transport restrictions are lifted.

“Even when we no longer have the lockdown and freely roam the city and do whatever we like, it still would be nice to come here rather than go to central places,” said Slav Slavinski, a finance director. Slavinski and his wife Yulia, who is a nutritionist, used to travel on the London Underground to shop at Borough Market.

Project Manager Camila Tobias said: “I would walk past all the time and say, ‘ooh I should go in there.’ Now I go in several times a week.”

Nick Ellis, a butcher and co-owner of the fishmongers in Greenwich, said it’s like “going back to traditional ways.”

“Shopping local, getting to know your butcher, your grocer, your fishmonger,” he said.

The big changes have prompted a shift in people’s way of thinking about food.

Elliot Kett, lead food systems researcher at the Food, Farming, and Countryside Commission said: “During this whole pandemic we’ve seen a huge shift in just how much people value food. We’ve seen food workers become key workers.”

“How you appreciate your food, your connection to family, to the environment, all of these kinds of values have shifted,” he said.

“The interesting thing to ask now, is what are things we can do and put in place, to nudge some of those good behaviors so they can become more long-term—so we don’t slip back into exactly the way we were doing things.”

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