Comments by Mark Price, the Managing Director of Waitrose, that changes in British shopping habits are “far more fundamental than the discounters” should send a warning to suppliers that they need to rapidly understand the implications of such changing habits or risk being left behind as the grocery sector continues to change.

That’s the message from customer, category and shopper management specialist Bridgethorne following Mr Price’s comments at the launch of Waitrose’s annual Food and Drink Report that the shift in behaviour was characterised by time-poor consumers buying food on the go and for the evening ahead.

“Mark Price’s comments hit the nail right on the head,” explains Bridgethorne co-founder John Nevens.  “He says that the pressure on traditional supermarkets is not being driven by the discounters, but by lifestyle changes following the financial crisis and developments in technology. Suppliers need to recognise this and adjust accordingly.”

Nevens says that consumers are savvier, are looking for greater levels of convenience and are fundamentally changing the way they shop as a result.

“In many organisations shopper – as opposed to consumer – remains an afterthought. We know that better understanding of shopper motivations and behaviours leads to better RoI and more effective operation. The challenge the shopper is laying down is for us to demonstrate that we know and understand their needs. This is important because shoppers and consumers are not the same; purchasing decisions are made by shoppers who may or may not be consumers as well. Failing to acknowledge this is risky and means that commercial spend is often misaligned.”

Nevens says this means recognising that no one commercial function operates in isolation and that in order for each to work properly, they have to work together.

“The shopper cannot be treated as merely an activation tool but as a strategic equal to the consumer and the customer with clear points of connectivity between the three elements. This is true integrated shopper management.”