Anyone who has been into a supermarket in the eight months since the British public were first instructed to stay at home would agree that the shopping experience has changed significantly.

One-way systems, social distancing and masks have all contributed to a different experience in stores.

The impact isn’t just on how we shop, but who is doing the shopping. A survey of our Nielsen Homescan panelists in April found there had been a shift in who was responsible for the household grocery shopping. In fact, 2 million more males were claimed as being primarily responsible for the grocery shopping in their household than before  Covid-19 restrictions were put in place.

The reasons for this shift could be down to a number of factors: working from home, being on furlough, juggling childcare or many other reasons.

One thing is for sure though – understanding this change will be key to long-term success.


From the beginning of March to October 3 the off-trade generated an additional £2.8 billion in alcohol sales, £1 billion in beer, £600 million in spirits and £900 million in wine. Our Nielsen Homescan panel shows more than 2 million more households purchased alcohol online in the last 12 weeks alone compared to a year ago.

If the primary household shopper dynamics have changed since Covid, and millions of new shoppers are taking more responsibility than usual for the household shopping, understanding where the purchase decisions lie is critical.

If we take beer as an example, more than 530,000 extra households have purchased the category in the past year, with beer increasing its value share of alcohol by 2% since the beginning of March and the on-trade closures. Spirits (532,000 extra households) and cider (849,000 extra) also attracted more shoppers, all of whom are potentially valuable customers in the future.

Understanding your shopper is more important than ever. What motivates them, where do they shop, how do they navigate the store and fixture and, of course, are they the end consumer? Shelf layout and clear category navigation can all help to attract shoppers. Don’t assume the shoppers standing in front of the shelf are the same as before Covid-19.

With the on-trade in England again in lockdown, and with the potential for further enforced closures to come, alcohol sales in the off-trade are likely to be buoyant for the foreseeable future. This represents an opportunity for manufacturers and retailers to appeal to these “new” shoppers who may not be pre-programmed to reach for the same brands or categories.

By Rob Hallworth, Client Delivery Team Leader, Nielsen