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UK Supermarkets - 5 Predictions for 2015

18 Dec 2014

Natalie Berg, Global Research Director at Planet Retail commented:

“Whereas 2014 was largely focused on price, we are expecting 2015 to be the year of differentiation. The Big Four supermarkets are now looking dangerously homogenous with their various price-cutting and brand-matching schemes. To survive this period of unprecedented change for the sector, retailer brands must be strikingly clear, targeted and, most of all, consistent. Therefore, we expect to see greater bids for differentiation next year.

“The digital war will overtake the price war. Next year will bring some very real progress with mobile technology that will entirely change the way shoppers behave both in and out of stores. From home-scanning devices to personalised promotions pinged to shoppers’ smartphones, grocery shopping will become a whole lot easier in 2015. Even the less tech-savvy shoppers will enjoy the ability to skip queues by paying by phone.

“Despite genuine signs of a consumer recovery, we have to keep in mind that grocery shopping habits have altered permanently. Discount supermarkets will continue to gain market share in 2015 while we expect continued growth on the premium spectrum. Forget difficult trading quarters - the Big Four are in for another few turbulent years.

“Our only concern for the likes of Aldi and Lidl is that they may become victims of their own success. As they add more bells and whistles – from range extensions to self-checkouts to accepting credit cards – they risk heaping too many costs on a business model founded on simplicity. But, for the meantime, discounters will remain the most disruptive force in grocery retail through 2015.

“The 2014 response to the discounters was: if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. This isn’t sustainable in our view. To differentiate, supermarkets must exploit the discounters’ weak spots - limited assortment and lack of an online offering. Click & collect will certainly gain momentum in 2015, building on the fantastic progress made this year. Asda and Waitrose are really leading the way here and we are excited to see new alternative collection points being added for 2015, giving consumers even more choice.”

Here are our 5 predictions for 2015:

1. A race for most convenient instore experience

The digital war is truly set to overtake the price war. Retailers are looking to mobile technology in a bid to differentiate and improve the instore experience. Mobile payments in particular will be a key area to watch in 2015, with both Sainsbury’s and Asda rolling this out in the first half of the year. Utilising instore Beacon technology, retailers will also look to create a far more personalised experience for customers. Meanwhile, apps that enable shoppers to more easily navigate aisles will make grocery shopping quicker and more convenient.

2. The death of the loyalty card

The notion of rewarding loyalty will never go away. However, we believe loyalty cards are losing relevance with today’s shopper. Customers want instant value without having to jump through hoops and - let’s face it - shoppers are no longer loyal to one particular supermarket. They are promiscuous, they shop around and buy little and often. From a retailer perspective, loyalty schemes are expensive to run and add an unnecessary layer of complexity to the business. In 2014, Sainsbury’s halved its Nectar reward points, while there is talk of possible changes to Tesco’s Clubcard scheme. We expect more changes in 2015.

3. Greater collaboration

It might sound counterintuitive but, as they seek to stand apart, we expect more retailers to join forces in 2015. Sainsbury’s is looking to add concessions to its stores, having already partnered with Jessop’s and - looking beyond the grocery sector for a moment - the eBay/Argos partnership has led to additional shopper choice while Mothercare concessions have recently begun popping up in selected Debenhams stores. We believe the addition of a babycare or a homeware retailer would be a logical fit for one of the Big Four

Concessions can also help make use of what is otherwise dead space in larger outlets. However, as evidenced by Tesco’s attempt to bring restaurants, yoga rooms and gyms into its stores, you simply can’t force shopping habits on consumers.

4. Home scanning

Cupboard replenishment isn’t the most exciting of tasks, so if retailers can make it even easier for their shopper it’s likely to drive loyalty. Next year, Waitrose will trial the Hiku home-scanning device, enabling us to scan barcodes from the comfort of our own kitchens. Sainsbury’s new mobile app also allows barcode scanning whether instore or at home. Similar tests are underway overseas, the most notable being the Amazon Dash device in the US. We foresee this gaining momentum in 2015 and - despite ultimately remaining quite niche - it enabling retailers to offer additional customer choice.

5. (Even more) alternative collection points

2014 was a major year for grocery click & collect. Even retailers that had long resisted finally surrendered and joined in. Compared to non-food retail, click & collect in grocery is inherently more complex due to product perishability and there is arguably less consumer demand (given that most grocers offer one-hour slots for home delivery). Nevertheless, convenience is defined by the individual and retailers are in a race to make grocery shopping as convenient as possible. Building from the progress made with alternative collection points, mainly via the London Underground, we anticipate more innovation in 2015. We are especially looking forward to Asda’s new temperature-controlled collection pods, due for roll-out next year.


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Natalie is available for further comment and can be contacted on +44 (0)20 7715 6380 or via e-mail at natalie.berg@planetretail.net


Robyn Ashman, Global Marketing Director

Tel: +44 (0) 20 7715 6021; E-mail: Robyn.Ashman@Planetretail.net