Bulgaria: People No Longer Overstock on Foods But Shopping Habits Have Changed
When the state of emergency in the country was declared in mid-March, many people rushed to food stores and began stocking up on durable products - flour, cereals, canned food, toilet paper... The traders' assurances that none of these was at risk of disappearing from shelves did not help.
"For a short while we have witnessed frenetic shopping for basic food products, masks and disinfectants. Interest in buying food from the heated display cases in supermarkets has fallen sharply. After our customers saw that there was no shortage of any goods, and all anti-epidemic measures were observed in supermarkets, they gradually began to return to their usual shopping rhythm," Fantastico personnel commented.
The chain reports that in the summer and autumn the consumer basket was not much different from the one before the pandemic.
"Only interest in detergents, disinfectants and masks was high at a time when the virus was not widely spread. At full capacity worked the ovens, in which they knead and bake bread on-site in supermarkets. Perhaps only the interest in dishes from the culinary stands was not recovered fully, but they also worked at full steam," the company's data show.
Like other retailers in Bulgaria, Fantastico reports a certain change in the way of shopping once the situation calmed down. The new trend shows that people visit stores less often and shop more. On average, since spring the number of customers visiting supermarkets has plummeted by about 25%. At the same time, however, the average bill worth has increased. For example, if we compare October 2019 with October 2020, the increase in the average payment is 27%.
They also reported a certain ebb of customer flows at the start of the epidemic, when consumers opted for small neighborhood stores preferring them over queues in front of supermarkets. The same was also observed because of the "green corridors" in the afternoon - some customers did not wait until 4:30 p.m., but were looking for an alternative store where restrictions were not so stringent, Fantastico reported.
On the other hand, for the vast majority of consumers, it is precisely compliance with anti-epidemic measures as the reason why they choose the big supermarkets. "People get used to them and observe them, it is already almost impossible to see a person without a mask in the store, for example," they say.
However, they do not think that we can talk of a lasting preference to neighborhood shops, where the “green corridor” hours are not observed so strictly and customers do not wait long (if at all) for admission. Furthermore, they report that “green corridors” led to queues immediately after these hours, when younger people rushed to do shopping, especially on weekends.
The requirement for distancing forced many "sworn" offline merchants to offer home deliveries as well. "Fantastico" has some experience from years ago, when they offered such a joint service with "Convenience" JSC, better known as ebag.bg.
Currently, the share of online sales is still very small as compared with the total sales volume, but it is growing steadily. A spike in online sales - about 40%, has been seen since mid-October as the COVID-19 crisis deepened, according to the chain, which in the spring, like other colleagues, began offering home supplies in partnership with foodpanda.
“The ebag.bg project, which we launched together with our colleagues from "Convenience" JSC, showed us that a real online store is a serious undertaking that requires a lot of resources. At the moment we have concentrated our efforts on the development of physical stores, but we are convinced that the time will come when we will also offer the opportunity for online shopping. This will happen when we are sure that we can give our customers a quality service both as a software solution and as logistics,” the Fantastico chain says.
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