By Allison Febrey, Manager, Research & Insights

"Grocery Store Design | Interior Decor Design | Aisle Signage | Market Decor Upgrade" by I-5 Design & Manufacture is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0Like all aspects of life over the past 18 months, grocery shopping has changed significantly. The grocery store we consider nearest and dearest to our hearts has changed, as well. While the great increase in online grocery shopping is well-noted, there has also been a shift in shopper’s primary grocery shopping channel.   

According to FMI’s U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends 2021, in early 2020, 44% of shoppers considered a supermarket to be their primary store, while only 26% considered a mass merchandiser to be their primary store. Flipping ahead a year, supermarkets’ share of being the grocery shopper’s primary store decreased slightly to 39% (-5pts), while mass merchandisers increased to 33% (+7pts). August’s U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends COVID-19 Tracker research confirms this trend is holding steady.   

At the same time, a greater percentage of mass merchandiser shoppers (48%) have placed an online order from their mass merchandiser in the past three months than supermarket shoppers have at their supermarket (31%). When looking across all shoppers, the share of shoppers placing an online order at a mass merchandiser increased by 26 points (compared to +11 points for supermarkets). Many shoppers are choosing to shop online at mass stores, perhaps leading to their increased share of being the grocery shopper’s primary store.  

The question remains as to why so many shoppers are shopping online at mass stores. According to February 2021 data, shoppers were more satisfied with their online shopping experience at mass stores (8.4) than supermarkets (8.0). In fact, mass merchandisers were the highest rated channel for online shopping, tied with online-only retailers. During a time when many shoppers increased their online shopping, satisfaction with the online experience took on a greater importance.  

In-store shopping plays a role in primary grocery channel, as well. According to shoppers, mass stores did not sacrifice their in-person shopping experience for their online experience. When looking at in-person shopping, consumers were equally satisfied with both mass merchandisers and supermarkets (8.2). Looking from another angle, the gap between satisfaction with the online experience and satisfaction with the in-person experience may point to why supermarkets lost share of their primary-store status. 

Grocery retailers continue to evolve their online and in-person shopping experiences to best serve their customers and primary grocery channels may continue to shift, too. In October, there will be another update on primary grocery channels with our next U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends Tracker.