Research for The Grocer has called into question the overlap criteria being used for Safeway says Liz Hamson
Suggestions Morrisons would have to shed up to 80 stores if it wins the bidding war for Safeway have been thrown into doubt by the surprise findings of a consumer survey carried out exclusively for The Grocer.
On the basis that most shoppers drive for 15-20 minutes to reach their nearest supermarket, data and consultancy group CACI concluded a fortnight ago there was substantially more local' overlap between competing Morrisons and Safeway stores than had been previously been assumed by the Competition Competition using a 10-15-minute model. But, in the first in a brand new series of consumer surveys conducted for The Grocer by ID Magasin, the international research and design company, shoppers said they took on average just 11 minutes to drive to their nearest supermarket ­ a finding which dramatically reduces the potential overlap and calls into question the accepted definition of local competition.
The survey, the first in a series that will gauge consumer views of the headline stories affecting the industry, was based on the responses of a pan-UK panel of 45 consumers aged from 18-85. It showed that 40% of shoppers expected to spend less than 10 minutes driving to their nearest store, 57% expected to spend 10 to 20 minutes, and just 3% more than 20 minutes.
There was a big difference between the average time shoppers said they were prepared to travel ­ 22 minutes ­ and time they actually travelled.
The survey also revealed that shoppers do not shop at just one or two stores a week as assumed by most existing local competition models, but at three or four ­ though 45% use just one store for their main shop.
The findings are likely to prompt further calls for local competition rules to be redefined.
ID Magasin chairman Siemon Scamell-Katz said: "This research highlights the readiness of consumers to use a large proportion of the stores in their area. The finding that our panellists claim to be willing to travel for 22 minutes for a main shop, but actually only travel on average 11 minutes, foregrounds the significance of time-poverty and suggests that stores can increase loyalty by making the shopping experience as time-efficient as possible.''
Last month, the Competition Commission shocked the industry when it referred the Morrisons bid for the troubled Safeway chain on the grounds that it would affect competition on a local if not national basis. Based on the so-called 15-minute drive time, the Commission concluded there would be a 46-store overlap between Morrisons and Safeway.