The major grocery chains built their portfolios of massive stores on the back of the phenomenon of the UK population getting into their cars, driving to their nearest out-of-town superstore, and doing their weekly/fortnightly/monthly mega shop.
While plenty of people still undertake this ritual the trend is trailing off. Partly this is because more people now shop online and also have a preference to buy locally on a more frequent basis. The other factor is that fewer people are now choosing to own a car.
When the residential part of the large King’s Cross development in North London was still on the drawing board about a decade ago the plan was to include around 900 car park spaces for residents but as the flats have been bought there has only been demand for half this amount of car spaces. The thirty-something’s (many of them with children) in these flats do not own cars.
The recent figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders supports this trend – the number of new cars registered in August was 6.4% lower than in August 2016, which marks the fifth consecutive month of declines in new car sales.
This eschewing of the car is a global phenomenon. Paris is continuing to put more pressure on car owners by: raising the price of parking; adding more cycle lanes; and banning diesel cars by 2020. This is all part of a broad strategy for the city to become the first post-car conurbation.
Likewise, in Japan the country’s millennials have fallen out of love with cars and have helped push car ownership down to its lowest level in almost two decades. In March there were just 1.06 cars per household, the lowest level since 1999, and down from a peak of 1.12 in 2006. Its capital city of Toyko has only 0.45 per household. Part of the reason for this is an efficient public transport system and an unwillingness of younger drivers to waste their lives in traffic jams.
It does not take a rocket scientist to work out that this global shift away from car ownership and usage will have massive implications for the retail industry. More people ditching the weekly drive to an out-of-town superstore is just one thing. It is also likely to fuel the rise of online sales and more home deliveries, an increased demand for local convenience stores, greater use of the likes of Uber, rising cycle sales, and more pedestrianised areas in town centres.
The consumer is no longer wedded to the automobile and retailers need to factor this into their strategies.
Glynn Davis, editor of Retail Insider
K3 Retail deliver multi-channel solutions that enable retailers to create joined up shopping experiences for their customers whether they choose to buy on-line, direct, in-store or via mobile. It has over 20 years’ experience delivering award winning solutions, to more than 175 internationally recognised retail brands.