grocer demographics are getting difficult

I went on a ‘Retail Safari’ earlier this week.  The aim was to update myself on a client’s category, but during my day criss-crossing Leeds to visit five different grocery retailers I couldn’t help but keep thinking about demographics.

At 11am on a weekday morning a third of shoppers in the Lidl store I visited were carrying handbags that had cost three figures.  Admittedly it was in a relatively upmarket area but still, it does back up retail analyst’s and journalist’s thoughts that the brand’s growth (up 18% YoY) is coming from middle class AB customers.

Waitrose might now be regretting their ‘free tea and coffee every visit for loyalty card holders‘ idea.  It will have done wonders for footfall in their cafes, but I’m not sure if the benefit has haloed as far as the checkouts.  The store cafe I visited (in an area where desirable and less-desirable postcodes meet, I guess they can’t be picky when a decent sized site comes up) was very full, but half of the cafe’s customers did not, by any stretch of the imagination, look like a typical Waitrose customer.  And the Waitrose heartland looking customers also looked rather hacked off at having to queue for ages for their drink and then wait for a table to become free. Update, 21/01/05 – Waitrose have just announced that loyalty card holders will need to buy something to eat if they want to drink their free coffee sat in the store cafeTold you!

Pondstretcher was full of middle class couples buying bird seed and storage solutions and at Tesco the staff picking for online orders outnumbered the actual customers.

That’s only a few examples and the day of the week will have skewed things somewhat, but my overall takeout from my field trip was that you simply can’t pigeonhole a grocer’s heartland customer anymore, they’re just too diverse – and getting even more so.  Which is going to make trying to find a ‘representative’ sample to research blumin difficult in the future.

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