Fewer customers are doing big shops in stores. Instead, they’re loading up their online carts and heading to nearby locations for day-to-day items. The average online basket size increased 17% in the 28 weeks to September 19 compared with the same period a year earlier, Sainsbury’s CEO Simon Roberts said on an earnings call.
“The accelerated shift online will not reverse,” he added.
Sainsbury’s has doubled its online capacity since the start of the pandemic, delivering more than 700,000 grocery orders a week. It is fulfilling 100,000 click-and-collect orders per week, eight times more than pre-covid levels, and 17% of grocery sales are now online, compared with 7% back in March before the pandemic hit.
The “rapid shift to digital” is expected to stick “regardless of how long Covid is with us,” Roberts said.
Grocery store chains in the United Kingdom and the United States are rapidly adjusting their business models to adapt to what they view as lasting changes to the way that people buy food.
While far greater numbers of shoppers are buying their groceries online, those who do go into stores want to shop as close to home as possible, according to Roberts. Sales in neighborhood stores are up 15%.
Sainsbury’s said it plans to open more “neighborhood hubs,” which are larger than typical convenience stores and offer locally-tailored products. It will also increase the rate of new convenience store openings and produce more fresh food to go on site, such as hot meals, sushi, freshly baked bread and hot coffee.