Good store maintenance can never be an afterthought for any retailer wanting to attract custom, but for food retailers, the focus can be adjusted to take account of changing circumstances.
A key feature of the cost of living crisis has been the way it is not just higher energy costs or soaring rents, but the increased cost of food. According to the Office for National Statistics, food price inflation was up 19.1 per cent in the year to March 2023.
This higher cost in the stores, combined with the increased expense of cooking as energy prices have risen, has prompted consumers to increasingly rely on microwave meals, where both these costs can be reduced.
Research by Kantar has found that over the last 12 weeks, the number of oven-made meals was down by four per cent, while microwaved meals were up by eight per cent. There was also a drop in hob use and an increase in meals made using toasters and grills.
This suggests retailers need to focus more attention and labelling on their microwave meals section, as this is where shoppers will increasingly be looking while costs are high.
Another area where stores may benefit from a strong focus is on the displaying of their own label lines. Because they tend to be significantly cheaper than other products, these have become increasingly popular in every month since June 2022 and have seen a 41 per cent rise in purchases in the last 12 months.
The ONS data highlighting the food price rises pointed to several factors: the impact of war in Ukraine on grain and fertiliser prices, labour shortages in Britain and some poor harvests in parts of the world.
Some of these issues are likely to go on applying for months to come if not beyond, so the patterns established by Kantar may provide a guide to how retailers should set up their store displays for the foreseeable future.