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The Near Team

2 mins read

Great Britain Reopening – A Deep Dive into Grocery Retail Stores

In part one of our Great Britain Reopening blog series, we looked at how consumer behaviour has evolved since the beginning of the pandemic in major cities of Great Britain. We discovered that there were two types of audience segments:

  • Covid-fatigue Audience: People who were fed up staying indoors and were looking forward to resuming normalcy. These were people who were seen at restaurants/pubs, malls, local tourist spots, hotels/motels etc.
  • Shielding Audience: Risk averse people who stepped out only for essentials. They were seen at grocery stores, supermarkets and the like.

In this blog, we take a look at the major retail chains in Great Britain and how each of the above consumer segments in Great Britain shopped for groceries and essentials during unlock phase 1 (Jun-2020 – Aug-2020) and unlock phase 2 (Mar-2021 – Apr-2021). Retail outlets have had the most foot traffic in both the time periods analysed. This is to be expected as both segments of audiences were seen at stores selling essentials. To get a better picture of which outlets they were going to and how much time they spent there, we took a deeper dive into the data for retail chains in Britain.

Retail Industry in Great Britain

Contributing to almost 5.1% of UK GDP, the retail industry is an important part of the economy. The industry faced many challenges since the beginning of the pandemic last year since the imposition of lock-downs and social-distancing measures. Most brands have had to pivot to online channels and introduce several services such as click & collect, scan-to-go, contact-less payments and more to drive foot traffic.

For the analysis, we looked at the data for the popular retail chains in the cities of London, Liverpool, Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham and Newcastle. The brands included were Tesco, Sainsbury, Morrisons, Aldi, Lidl and Iceland.

Here’s a look at which stores were preferred by which segment of the audience and how far they travelled to get there:

Density Index of COVID Fatigue Audience

Sainsbury and Tesco seem especially popular with Covid-fatigue audiences.

Density Index of Shielding Audience

Shielding audiences seem to prefer Aldi stores.

Average Distance Travelled by COVID Fatigue Audiences

Covid-fatigue audiences seem to be more open to travelling longer distance between Mar-21 and Apr-21.

Average Distance Travelled by Shielding Audiences

While Shielding audiences seem to prefer stores close to their home location, they were willing to make an exception for Morrisons.

Below is a summary of all the insights we derived for each grocery brand that was analysed:


Tesco sales increased by 8.5% in Mar-21 compared to the same time last year. This shows that more people were open to visiting larger supermarkets that are bound to attract more crowds.

  • Density: While Tesco started off strong with in-store visitors from the covid-fatigue audience segment in Jun-20, there was a drastic decline in the density in the following months of Jul-20, Aug-20. It picks up again in Mar-21 after the second unlock and increases in Apr-21. But it does not reach the peak density observed in Jun-20.  Shielding audiences chose other stores over Tesco and showed a slight increase in density towards Apr-21.
  • Travel Distance: Both audience segments who visited Tesco stayed close to the store and did not travel long distances to get there. The frequency of visits did not vary and remained 1-2 times for both time periods. 
  • Dwell Time: Surprisingly, the covid-fatigue audiences showed the least dwell time compared to shielding audiences who spent the maximum time at Tesco stores during Apr-21.


Sainsbury sales increased by 7.3% in Mar-21 compared to the same time last year. In contrast to Tesco, data for Sainsbury showed high crowd density for all the months observed.

  • Density: Sainsbury attracted large crowds right from phase 1 of the unlock. The density increases steadily with a slight dip in Mar-21 but leads to a significant rise by Apr-21. Sainsbury attracted visitors from both covid-fatigue and shielding audience segments.
  • Travel Distance: Both audience segments who visited Sainsbury did not travel long distances, but the distance travelled for both segments increases towards Apr-21 showing the audience is willing to travel slightly longer distances. Frequency of visits is similar to the data for Tesco with 1-2 visits every month.
  • Dwell Time: Dwell time across Sainsbury stores is low for both audience segments but slightly lower for shielding audiences.


Morrisons recorded the highest increase in sales with 8.7% in Mar-21 compared to the same time the previous year.

  • Density: The density index revealed a steady inflow of in-store shoppers from the covid-fatigue audience segment between Jun-20 to Aug-20. Between Mar-21 and Apr-21 however there is a drastic increase in crowd density, corresponding with the high sales figures reported by Morrisons. When it comes to shielding audiences however, the numbers peak in Jun-20 and show a drastic decline in the following months. It rises slightly post unlock phase 2 in Mar-21 and Apr-21.
  • Travel Distance: Both audience segments do not travel long distances to get to Morrisons indicating Sainsbury stores are located close to their home locations. Frequency of visits is 1-2 visits per month and these numbers do not vary.
  • Dwell Time: Morrisons stores recorded the highest dwell time for covid-fatigue audiences with a steep increase for the month of Apr-21. Shielding audiences also spent more time at Morrisons compared to Sainsbury and Aldi.


The popular discount supermarket chain with over 300 stores in Britain has also attracted a steady in-flow of visitors.

  • Density: Crowd density numbers reveal that Aldi stores were heavily crowded on Apr-21 with people from both audience segments. Shielding audiences seemed to prefer Aldi stores over all the others. The density rises steadily for the months of June-20 and July-20 and shows a drastic increase for the months of Mar-21 and Apr-21.
  • Travel Distance: Shoppers from the covid-fatigue segment travelled the longest distances to reach Aldi stores. Attractive discounts and offers could have encouraged shoppers to choose to travel to Aldi stores even if store locations were farther away from home locations. Frequency of visits however were similar to the other stores with an average of 1-2 visits for both audience segments.
  • Dwell Time: Aldi stores show the least dwell times for audience segments.


Lidl is another popular discount retail chain in Britain. We looked at data for all Lidl stores located in the major cities.

  • Density: Shoppers from the covid fatigue audience visited Lidl stores more during Apr-21 when compared to Jun-20. The same is true for shielding audiences with maximum density in the month of Apr-21. Lidl attracted more visitors in the month of Apr-21 than any other month.
  • Travel Distance: Shielding audiences travelled the maximum distance to get to Lidl stores. For the covid-fatigue segment, shoppers visiting Lidl stores seemed to live close to store locations but did show a willingness to travel longer distances in the month of Apr-21. Frequency of visits from the covid-fatigue segment was higher than that observed for other stores. There was an increase in frequency of visits noticed in Aug-20, Mar-21 and Apr-21 indicating this pattern could repeat for later months. For shielding audiences, the frequency remained constant across the months, similar to other brands.
  • Dwell Time: Lidl stores had the second-highest dwell time, with Morrisons leading only for covid-fatigue audiences. Shoppers from both segments spent the most time at Lidl stores on Mar-21, but this number drastically drops for Apr-21. This could be due to services like click & collect or contactless payments being introduced on Apr-21.


Iceland is British supermarket chain and has multiple stores across Britain.

  • Density: After a strong start with a considerable number of shoppers from the covid-fatigue audience segment visiting Iceland stores in Jun-20 and Jul-20, there is a drastic decline for the following months. The numbers do not return to peak levels observed in July-20 even on Apr-21. The same is seen for shielding audiences as well with the peak month being Jun-20 and a drastic line in the following months.
  • Travel Distance: Shoppers at Iceland stores live very close to the stores and do not travel much to get to the store. Shielding audiences visiting Iceland especially seemed to be located very close to the store location. Frequency of visits remains constant across the months for both audience segments.
  • Dwell Time: Dwell times were low for both audience segments at Iceland stores.

Liked what you read? For more insights and reports like this, visit our resources page here!

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