Consumer FMCG businesses – Navigating the current climate and fast-changing customer habits

Consumer FMCG businesses – Navigating the current climate and fast-changing customer habits
Published: 14 April 2020

The current ‘working from home’ environment and enforced lockdown has undeniably led to some radical changes in consumer shopping habits. With all but essential workers effectively confined to homeworking, new trends are starting to emerge. Simon Walton, Head of Berwick Partners’ Consumer Practice explains.

Following the announcement of non-essential travel restrictions, the global affiliate network awin.com found orders for digital TV and video-on-demand services increased by 174% year-on-year, while online gaming purchases were up 237%. Most significantly, after pubs were forced to close, alcohol sales increased by 371%. Awin also found sales of fitness products were up 53%, with the average basket value also up 42% – most noticeably by those retailers specialising in cross trainers, treadmills, exercise bikes, rowers and general strength equipment.

Clearly, as the statistics illustrate, there has, by necessity, been a massive shift in our shopping habits. As appetite for items relevant to life in isolation increases exponentially, both manufacturers and retailers need to adapt and find their place in this ever-changing situation. A number of Consumer FMCG businesses have reacted by significantly increasing or adapting product production, whilst others have mothballed certain production lines for the meantime, opting instead to focus on other alternative areas of high demand and consumer-perceived necessity. Meanwhile, stretched supply chains have been hugely reinforced and enhanced in response to the pandemic.

Shopping frequencies

Despite new social distancing measures in-store and pleas from the government to shop only when necessary, the latest data from HIM & MCA Insight shows shoppers are still making frequent store visits. Channel Pulse tracked shopper behaviour and found the average convenience retail shopper visited a c-store 2.1 times over the five-day period. Supermarket shoppers visited 1.8 times, which was the same for shoppers to the discounters.

The end of stockpiling?

According to The Grocer, the consensus across the industry suggests the stockpiling peak has subsided with just 12% of all shoppers saying that their primary motive for visiting a shop was to ‘stock up for the longer term’. Blonnie Walsh, Head of Insight at HIM & MCA Insight stated, “Although visit frequency has dropped since pre-coronavirus, shoppers continue to visit grocery retailers regularly, despite calls from the government to leave the house as little as possible. Shoppers are making frequent visits to stock up on categories with a shorter shelf life, including fresh fruit and veg and chilled dairy.”

With consumers actively purchasing online, as well as regularly visiting brick-and-mortar stores, the UK Consumer, FMCG and Food & Drink industry now has the opportunity, more than ever, to help and aid its customers. Examples of this include luxury cosmetic and spirits companies dramatically switching production to much-needed hand gel and sanitisers. Significantly, the Consumer, FMCG and Food & Drink industry has donated huge quantities of a wide variety of different products to the elderly and vulnerable, charities, care homes and, of course, the NHS.

This really is the UK Consumer, FMCG and Food & Drink industry’s opportunity to underline its importance and significance to the nation and truly give back. A point which will not be forgotten in the post-virus and lockdown period by its customers, consumers, suppliers and employees.

Organisations who want to successfully appoint the required talent to facilitate such endeavours and deliver on the promises made, will need to be proactive and imaginative in their future recruitment campaigns. The need to have a strong, transparent and candid relationship with a leading recruiter in their respective functional areas and/or sectors has never been more important. If these relationships are not in place, successfully attracting and appointing high-calibre individuals will be a real challenge. One final point is to remind employers that their organisation is only as good as the people in it; your people are undoubtedly your point of difference and what makes a company great.

Berwick Partners can add invaluable expertise and access to a variety of networks to ensure we find you the best person for the role. We lead the way in recruiting senior leadership positions across both the Private and Public sectors; regionally, nationally and internationally. We support organisations in making key appointments which have a critical impact upon their business’s future and success.

For more information, please contact Simon Walton, Head of the Consumer Practice at Berwick Partners. Simon specialises in recruiting senior management and leadership roles across the sector. 

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