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Food business M&S changes tack

British food retailing is changing. While the large supermarkets still have a significant share of the market, discount retailers as well as convenience food stores have started taking market share. Despite this, Marks and Spencer recently took the decision to slow down expansion of its Simply Food outlets. Here we look at why, and at how our shopping habits are changing.

According to the Guardian, the UK food and grocery market was worth £206 billion by 2018, with further growth expected for discount and convenience stores. So why has Marks and Spencer decided to slow down its expansion into the convenience market?

Why M&S is slowing down its expansion

In 2016, Marks and Spencer announced it was opening 200 new food stores within the following five years. This would be a mixture of ‘Simply Food’ stores and franchises.It planned to open 90 in 2017, with 90 more in 2018, but both of these figures have been reduced. The main reason is the fall in ‘like for like’ sales. While overall food trade has increased due to new store openings, the fall in like for like sales excluding new stores has given M&S reason for concern.  With each new store that does open they will need new staff, produce, trollies, equipment and some garage shelving sourced from sites including for back of the store to keep all the speare stock in an organised manner.

Our changing shopping habits

More people are choosing to shop little and often, which has meant good times for discount retailers and convenience stores. One of the reasons that Marks and Spencer is losing ground here, where it should be doing well, is that shoppers are more savvy now about how much they want to spend, and there is a limit to how much people will pay, even for premium products. Add this to the fact that people are shopping more online with the big supermarkets and this could explain the fall in M&S like for like sales.

One of the things that most M&S food stores don’t offer is counter refrigeration such as that. While this has always been available in the larger supermarkets, even the discount retailers are beginning to see that this is what customers are looking for when they come into the shop. Otherwise, they may prefer to do their shopping online and have it delivered.

Whatever your preferred way of shopping or wherever you choose to do your shopping, we are sure you’ll agree, that there has never been so much choice.

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