Has COVID Changed Family Shopping Forever?

COVID changed family shopping lead

We were curious to see if family shopping has undergone some significant changes since COVID so we did some research and asked parents to share their views on how COVID has changed (or not) their shopping behaviours, what they think of retail post-lockdown, in-store vs online shopping and what retailers can do better. Find out how COVID has changed family shopping:

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Has COVID Changed Family Shopping Forever?

Parents gave us their thoughts and feedback on a wide range of shopping related questions* including how they feel about buying from Irish websites now that Brexit is here, what pain points they have when shopping and what they plan to do for Christmas 2022.

* Surveys run on www.mykidstime.com between March and October 2021 with 4k total responses from Irish parents

When it comes to shopping and parents, the biggest trend to come out of the research is that parents are actively trying to be more conscious consumers, and of those who managed to save during COVID, they don’t plan on splashing out significantly and blowing those savings with frivolous spending.

While parents were happy that instore shopping had returned particularly for clothes buying, they indicated that they still continue to shop online. Brexit has changed online shopping behaviours for many parents and a willingness to buy Irish still prevails. But the feedback shows that Irish retailers need to up their game when it comes to service and being found online, in order to get parents to part with their cash.

“I think we will spend less money on clothes, food and frivolous things. I feel we need less “stuff” to make us happy.”

Post-COVID Attitudes to Shopping

There has been a shift towards more conscious ‘consumerism’. Many parents articulated that they have realised they don’t need to buy as many things for the family to be happy, perhaps signalling a decline in impulse buying and frivolous spending. Shopping around and making sure the things they buy are what the family really needs, rather than just wants, were common themes. Half of parents said they will spend more thoughtfully as a result of COVID.

Continuing to shop online, seeking out more sustainable or eco friendly products, availing of click and collect more, were some of the other trends identified. Parents also plan to browse a bit less and have a more planned approach to shopping. Avoiding queuing and not shopping at peak times was also mentioned by parents.

“I will make a list and be more focused on what I need, quality over quantity, and I won’t be waiting for sales.”

“I will be as careful shopping in stores with spending less time in them and making a list of what I really need rather than browsing like I usually did prior to COVID.”

Online Shopping vs In-Store Shopping

online groceries shopping

Parents showed a marked preference to buy some product categories in-store, whereas other products they were more inclined to buy online.

Top 5 Categories that Parents Prefer to Buy In-store

  1. Grocery 82%
  2. Footwear 81%
  3. Furniture 76%
  4. Alcohol 72%
  5. Adult clothing 68%

Top 5 Categories that Parents Prefer to Buy Online

  1. Books 67%
  2. Stationery 52%
  3. Technology 51%
  4. Back to school items 50%
  5. Gifts 48%

However, parents did mention pain points about shopping online vs in-store. For example, sizing of clothing was an issue, particularly when it came to kids’ clothes and shoes.

“You’re second guessing what size will suit you and then if something doesn’t fit, you have to post items back, whereas in store you can touch the items, try them on, if possible, or return items to the store if they don’t fit.”

“I am happy to be back to in store shopping but can honestly say that I have got somewhat used to online shopping and will continue with it too.”

Online Shopping from Irish Websites and Brexit

44% of parents say they would like to buy more online from Irish websites but often can’t find what they want while 18% have found other European (non-Irish) websites to order online since Brexit. One third of parents said they could easily find what they want to order online from Irish websites.

When asked about their experience of buying on Irish websites, 46% said their experience was mostly positive with the same percentage saying that overall they had no complaints .

If parents did have a complaint to make it was around finding Irish websites in the first place, knowing the provenance of products they buy are Irish, and that stock levels are not kept up to date.

“I definitely make more effort to buy Irish now. Even if I could save money buying from a UK site, delivery is so much quicker if it’s coming from within the country. That being said, if I wanted something that was only available on a UK site, I wouldn’t hesitate to buy it, even if I did have to pay tax.”

“Some UK websites are still not delivering to Ireland so I have had to go elsewhere to get what I need. Irish retailers aren’t very visible so you really need to search for them, and for what you want, to be able to support local.”

Grocery Shopping

grocery shopping habits

As with all segments, family grocery shopping changed completely during lockdown, moving from an average of several shops during the week to one large shop. Post-lockdown parents say they have kept one large shop at a supermarket but added a small top up shop at a local store.

Two-thirds of parents also revealed that their main grocery shop went up in cost during the lockdown and has stayed up.

Half of parents said they deliberately look for deals, stock up when they see a special offer, and actively shop around to get better deals.

Other changes in food buying behaviour reflect the time spent at home, e.g. baking regularly, making snacks, cooking together.

“I’m always looking for special offers and deals when doing the shopping. We meal plan and if I spot something on discount I sometimes change meals on the spot to save money.”

“I go between Lidl and Aldi but do a bit in SuperValu because of the coupons that I receive, they really help to bring down the overall cost. Shopping costs have increased considerably since the pandemic and there appears to be less choice and not as many bargains.”

Christmas Shopping and Spending

Post-COVID shopping changes are also reflected in this year’s Christmas plans, with 70% of parents saying they will do a mix of in-store and online shopping with only 10% saying they will do all of their shopping instore.

While 42% said they plan to spend as much as before, just over a quarter (26%) of parents said they intend to buy less with 11% saying they want to spend time rather than cash and 11% saying they want to go more “green” with what they buy.

“Last year we focused on buying Irish and will try to keep some of our gifts Irish-made this year. Will not be leaving it until December though, in case of supply issues.”

“If shops are going to do discounts/money off, I think offers should be sooner rather than later. Most people I know are looking to finish their Christmas Shopping in the next 2 or 3 weeks (October 2021) including me. I know quite a few that have big items bought as they were low in stock. I think it’s difficult for Irish stores this year with the delays in deliveries. I’ll buy locally as much as is possible but the cheaper option on bigger buys has been online for me this year.”

What Parents Want from Retailers

When asked what retailers could do better, parents had lots of suggestions:

  • Product reviews from other parents
  • Recommendations
  • Grouping/bundling of products
  • Up to date stock on websites
  • Better sizing information particularly for kids’ products
  • Better search and filtering
  • Finding Irish websites easily
  • Click & Collect
  • Easy returns and quick refunds
  • Free delivery
  • In-store appointments
  • Parent & child shopping times
  • Wishlists
  • Child/family-centred customer service
  • Ideas and inspiration
  • Relevant, targeted and timely offers
  • Earlier communication
  • More Irish-made products
  • Rewards/loyalty programmes

“I find that lots of Irish retailers don’t have reviews of products on their website. Reviews are very helpful for purchasing products. Also when it comes to clothes, I like to know what they are made from, this information is often overlooked by smaller retailers. Same with ingredients for cosmetics or food.”

“Highlight they are Irish and that items will ship from within Ireland. It’s not always obvious. Give different shipment options: regular post, express delivery, courier etc. Also I think it’s important to give accurate shipping timelines – If you order by 2pm guaranteed next day delivery etc.”

What does this mean for Irish retailers?

For retailers, communicating value and quality to parents is going to be key to getting them to spend in the run up to Christmas and beyond.

Businesses need to know what the parent market wants and how to differentiate themselves from their competitors.

Make it easy for parents to transact with kids in tow, advance appointment booking, wishlists for shopping, click & collect are all things that this segment would like.

Online will continue to be a strong channel, Irish companies need to ensure their online presence is the best it can be and that their stock levels are up to date.

There’s a strong emphasis on a low-key Christmas at home this year. Content and products that promote family time together are going to be popular.

In some ways, parents are no different to other shopper segments, they want value and quality, but they also need to trust the retailers and the products they sell even more as they are not just buying for themselves but for their family. (God forbid you buy the wrong toy or shoes for your child!).

Understanding more about what parents need and want, and ultimately helping them make good shopping decisions for their family, is key to retail success with this highly influential segment.

Hungry for more retail insights?

If you’ve found this article useful, you download our free retail-related reports to see what parents are saying about shopping.

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Would you like business-transforming insights from parents for your business? Use our tailored panels of engaged parents and our dedicated private platform to gather critical insights to help influence consumers to deliver long term profitability. Contact us now to find how we can help.

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