In Belgium, shopper habits have followed a pattern similar to that observed in other countries.
The impact of the lockdown on shopper behaviour has been massive. Even before the lockdown, traffic in shops increased. Customers were buying essential items like toilet paper, hand soap, rice, pasta, etc. Most retailers and manufacturers were not prepared for this peak in demand which subsequently hit their entire supply chain. Additionally, shops needed to re-organize in order to be able to follow the safety instructions and make sure products were getting onto shelves. Most retailers sent their HQ staff to shops or warehouses in order to get the job done. Even personnel of sister companies (e.g. Dreamland of Colruyt) started working for the supermarkets. Several retailers are also taking financial measures to cover the extra costs of this crisis.
Nielsen calculated that in the week before the lockdown, supermarket sales increased by 45% due to the stocking up of essential products. In the first week of the lockdown, sales increased by an additional 37.5%. Despite these increased sales in supermarkets, big CPG players in the market are facing huge turnover loss due to the closing of their professional and foodservice channels and events. Retailers with a big focus on B2C, such as Sligro and Metro are also suffering.
To relieve some of the pressure on grocery personnel, the government prohibited all promotions as of March 18th. This led to a price increase of around 6.6% for some shops (Test-aankoop, the Belgian consumer organization). Starting March 31st, planned promotions were allowed again, but retailers reacted differently to this. For example, Delhaize installed a solidarity action giving a 5% discount over several weeks, while others simply restarted their promotions.
In terms of shopper habits, several studies show that people are buying brands they know along with fresher and higher quality products. If they need to stay at home, they want the best for themselves. Store visits are more planned than before as people want to reduce shopping time and people shop closer to home. Home-delivery services and pre-ordering of groceries have also increased significantly in the last few months.