National Editor Tom Karst
National Editor Tom Karst

UK retailers are the most watched and commented-on supermarkets in the world. There are frequent stories online about the market share of major British retailers, their relationships with suppliers and their questionable practices in promoting booze.

Today was a red letter day for coverage of UK retailers, but the source of the news is not the Daily Mail or The Sun, it is the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service.

Coming across the wire today are:

Retail foods London  Key observation from the 12-page report:  The convenience stores are seeing a major upswing as the “big four” supermarkets gain more importance in this area. The grocery convenience stores saw the highest current growth rate in 2011. Consumers now prefer to shop more conveniently. With most convenience stores being located in town centres, train stations and shopping areas consumers are visiting these stores more often to pick up a few items at a time. This means that shoppers only purchase what they require and benefit from the cheapest prices as the big four supermarkets dominate these stores and offer the same prices as they would in their larger format stores.

UK supermarket chain profiles: Key observation from the report:  (Tesco) Express Stores are up to 3,000 square feet and offer customers great value, quality and fresh food close to where they live or work. The first express store was opened in 1994, and there are now over 1,400 outlets selling a range of up to 7,000 lines, including fresh produce, wines and spirits, and in-store bakery items.

Key UK retail outlet profiles Key observation from the report: This report provides brief profiles of selected convenience and specialty stores in the UK, including delicatessens, mail order services, confectionery stores, health food retailers, buying groups and franchises.


You will find that the first report, "Retail Foods London" provides the most detailed overview of the UK retail scene. Of special intererst to me was this commentary on the fortunes of online retailing. From the report:

The value of the UK online grocery market has grown from £3.7 bn in 2009 to £5.9 bn in 2011. Online grocery sales are predicted to reach £11.2 bn by 2016. Online grocery shopping accounts for only 4 percent of total groceries sold in the UK. Even though the UK online market is regarded as the most advanced in the world, online shopping for food remains a niche market.

Research has shown that consumers are in fact reverting back to shopping in store rather than online. This is due to products regularly being omitted from their delivery and substitute items were often considered unsuitable. However, that said there is considerable potential for growth. It is most popular with families and more affluent consumers whose spare time is very valuable. There is very low uptake among people over the age of 45. This is probably due to the acceptance and use of technology, along with a preference for well established routines. The highest number of users of internet shopping is in Scotland, followed by East Anglia and the Midlands. These are all more rural areas.


Kudos to USDA on another set of highly informative and insightful reports on UK retailers. Indeed, their effort is considering more illuminating than the latest tiff over booze promotions at UK supermarkets.