/ Shopping

Do you prefer to visit the supermarket rather than shop online?

Food shopping

According to a recent YouGov survey, the UK’s online grocery market has failed to ‘lift off’ and still lags behind the traditional trip to the supermarket. So, how do you like to shop for your groceries?

As I confessed back in March, I’ve never done an online grocery shop. I’ve got easy access to all manner of supermarkets and convenience stores, both near my home and at work. And, quite simply, I enjoy the experience.

Shopping experience

Perhaps it’s because I worked in a supermarket in my late teens and early 20s, but for me, nothing beats mooching around the aisles.

I enjoy looking at the new goods on offer, selecting my own products, assessing their freshness and, best of all, sifting through the reduced products section.

If I’m in my hometown, I’ll probably have to add on at least 10 minutes to my shop as I’ll invariably bump into someone I went to school with, which obviously warrants a catch-up natter. Escalate that to half an hour if I’m with my mum, who is guaranteed to get talking to old school friends/former colleagues/relatives I’ve never heard her mention before.

Supermarket sweep

According to a YouGov survey, it’s a similar story for the majority of shoppers, with more people using bricks and mortar supermarkets over online stores.

The findings tally with recent Office for National Statistics data that found only 6% of total UK grocery sales are made online.

So what’s the reason for the lack of enthusiasm? Well, there are actually a few. Almost 57% of those surveyed said they did not trust the quality and freshness of products bought online, while 71% said they would prefer to touch before they buy.

More than half of non-online shoppers (51%) say they enjoy going to a supermarket, while 34% believe they would miss the social contact involved in a trip to the shops.

A good number of shoppers, both of bricks and mortar supermarkets (38%) and online stores (35%), said additional delivery costs were too high. While others (19%) believed that the delivery times were inconvenient.

Shopping habits

So what would it take to change our shopping habits?

Maybe it’s tackling the ever-mysterious world of substitutions (remember the order condoms, receive a pregnancy test convo?) or, for me a gripe I personally have is that most sites seem to have a minimum spend, which can vary from £25 to £60. Get that down to a fiver, or at a push, a tenner, and cut the delivery costs, and I reckon a few more people might be persuaded. Probably not me, though.

How do you prefer to buy your groceries?

A trip to the supermarket (77%, 931 Votes)

A mixture of both (16%, 193 Votes)

Online (7%, 84 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,208

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Do you do your grocery shopping online? If not, what is it that puts you off? What would it take to persuade you to change your habits?


I used to shop in store at Waitrose but since Ocado started delivering in my part of Suffolk 3 years ago I’ve used them. They stock virtually the whole Waitrose range and much, much more. In fact they are much more likely to stock a Waitrose product I actually want than the local store I previously used.

I like the Ocado model which is basically producer to warehouse to van to me. Minimum handling, unlike the stores or store based deliveries where products like fruit and vegetables that could have been mauled and replaced many times on the shelves are likely to end up in your order.

Just think of the ‘conventional’ model. Producer to warehouse to store to shelf to trolley out of trolley to checkout to bag to home. Phew.

I couldn’t be more pleased with my current arrangement.

Waitrose do Mixed Beans in a Spicy Tomato Sauce. They don’t have a lot of flavour and are not particularly spicy, but they are low sugar. So we can add a dash of whatever flavour we want to them – tomato, brown or bbq sauce whatever takes our fancy and that makes them better than many others on the market.

The thing is though, I have never found them in a Waitrose supermarket !!! They only seem to be available from Ocado.

I live remotely in the middle of Snowdonia. 3 years ago I decided, for environmental reasons, to try to live without a car. As there are no supermarkets within 15 miles of my home and public transport links to them are poor I am very dependent on on-line grocery and other shopping. My experience to date has been an overwhelmingly favourable one. The main downside is the lack of competition between on line grocery deliverers in my area but I live in hope that Lidl and Aldi might soon get in on the act.

On balance, Gareth, I would expect home delivery by van to be more environmentally positive than using a car for a two-way journey, so your decision is commendable. Is what you lose on prices more or less than what it would cost you to drive to an Aldi or Lidl store?

I don’t think home delivery is on the horizon with Aldi or Lidl as it does not fit their streamlined business model and most of their stores are of the wrong scale to support the logistics of a delivery service by van: the longer the distance between drops the fewer they can make in one day. The economics of van delivery are closely linked to urban areas and, for the major supermarkets, the marginal impact of an extra drop on an existing operation.

Hmmm…so two of us live in Snowdonia, then. Getting crowded up here…


One problem with home delivered food is that the in-store pickers seem to take items from the front of the shelf and without looking at the best before or use by date. Consequently, you may get stuff delivered that has to be used the same or next day when in reality you were planning to use it some days later. Upon ordering several days of food at once, it is entirely possible for all of it to arrive with best before or use by dates dated the same as the delivery date. In store, you can pick out items with longer dates if necessary.


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Colin says:
4 December 2017

About 98% of my shopping is online.Reason for this is because I can’t walk & live alone. Even when I visited friends overseas I would order my food online. Then arrange for its delivery the day after my eleven hour flight back.Had a meal on the plane & bought a salad sandwich overseas just before I returned. Don’t feel like eating much the first day back;hence the sandwich.Been doing this for about seven years. Works each time.
Why struggle with a heavy suitcase on the way. Order the clothes I need, at a store ‘local’ to my overseas friends & have them sent there. Wear them in both the USA, then later in the UK. Again I have been doing this for years & ONLINE features be it food or finance are essential to me. Would very much like to visit a UK supermarket.But I can’t see that happening. Yes UK stores do bring substitutions. I don’t always accept them.

Take care.Colin

My experience of Sainsbury is that online deliveries are unfit for purpose. The items seem to be selected by junior members of staff, resulting in unsuitable substitutions – such as low-alcohol wine instead of a good chardonnay! When I complained, I was told that I could have rejected the offending item, but the delivery driver is not going to wait whilst I check every item in my consignment. Even if he did, I still wouldn’t have received the wine I ordered, or an acceptable substitute. I would only use the service as a last resort.

It’s the staff they employ that take things from the shelves to be delivered to you not the supermarket .You have a choice If you do not like one store there are other who will welcome your custom Don’t moan complain to the store (manager) of buy elsewhere Delivery drives will wait while yo check if they don’t ” vote with your feet ” as before

We are quite satisfied with Sainsbury’s on-line delivery service but mainly use it for basics, commodities and provisions. We also stipulate ‘no substitutions’ for the reasons you have given. This can mean some ordered items being missing but that is only a temporary problem.

We found Waitrose the worst for stock levels and substitutions so again have stopped them from substituting as they got it wrong twice as often as they got it right. It seems that the company has a sophisticated market and products to suit, but the staff who do the order-picking do not have the right degree of knowledge and experience; if the substitutions are driven by their computer system then the problem goes further back up the delivery chain to head office presumably. In the store the staff seem well-trained and quite knowledgable about their products but the delivery function is seen more as a warehousing and trucking operation where the skill-sets are not compatible with the customers’ expectations. Our main complaint with Waitrose is that they don’t seem to have any mechanism for ensuring that goods in the on-line order pipeline are available or held for delivery on the specified day; their stock levels appear to be driven by sales in-store with little reference to the on-line order book.

We don’t all have a choice of supermarket deliveries, Bishbut – in some rural areas coverage is patchy.

I have complained to the Waitrose management but received evasive, defensive or otherwise unsatisfactory answers. We rarely use their delivery service now and go to the store where we can see the range of possible alternatives and select accordingly.

I know that John but some complain to those who cannot do anything to help but never complain to the right person and will not do anything but complain time after time about the same thing Not just one thing either complain but do nothing else all the time

Michael Cook: Sainsburys – in line with Waitrose, Asda and others – inform you before delivery and upon delivery if you have any subs and what those subs are. That gives you plenty of time to reject the subs and the drivers certainly will wait for you to check your order.

In any case, if you find something is missing later, then you simply contact the Customer services who unfailingly refund your money and usually let you keep anything you’ve been sent by mistake.

Last week, I had ordered a 64 pack of Quantum dishwasher tables, an offer for £10. The store had run out – unsurprisingly – but they substituted it with a pack of only 45 tablets, but for the same price. Since they’d informed me by email prior to delivery I was able to tell the driver I was rejecting it, but he simply reduced the price to zero and let me keep the pack. Impeccable service, in my view.

Do Ocado deliver to your area John? They deliver to Norwich but not Great Yarmouth or Cromer. I rarely get substitutions or missing items and the driver always points them out and asks if I want to keep them. You also get advance warning in an email and mobile phone, so no surprise at the door unlike Asda who turned up with 28 out of 59 items missing.


If they are not in your area, you can register your interest and get a substantial discount off your first order, so worth trying them once.

Thank you Alfa. I thought of Ocado but at the moment they don’t serve our area. As I said, we are quite satisfied with Sainsbury’s and like a lot of their own label products. They do provide a good delivery service with only a very small percentage of items not delivered because of our refusal to accept substitutions – we might relent on that as they seem to have improved over the last year or so and become more intelligent about what customers want. As Ian has said, their drivers are polite and helpful and are usually early within the delivery slot which is useful because you can then get back on with things.