Direct selling infographic


Thirty-five per cent of British shoppers would be willing to buy food, drink and household items direct from manufacturers instead of through retailers, an exclusive poll for The Grocer has revealed.

Toilet paper is the product most likely to be bought outside of traditional retail channels, with 45% of consumers saying they would consider buying it direct, followed by household cleaning products (44%) and tinned food (39%).

Razor blades, an area that has seen a lot of direct-to-consumer activity recently, were of interest to 32% of men.

The research, carried out by Harris Interactive, also found cheap and convenient delivery options were a key factor in persuading shoppers to buy direct – 31% of consumers said free delivery would make them buy from manufacturers, with a further 9% citing faster or cheaper delivery options than their current retailer.

However, price and attractive promotions were the most important factor overall, cited by 37% of shoppers.

Direct selling on the rise

The findings come as grocery brand owners are increasingly exploring direct-to-selling ventures. Nestlé has long been doing so through its Nespresso brand, while P&G is selling products from across its portfolio via in the US and and a similar site in Germany. Several other major brand owners are also following suit, though most use direct selling as low-key brand extensions or market research rather than a rival to traditional retail partners.

The most common ecommerce model used in UK grocery today remains ‘indirect ecommerce’, where brand owners engage shoppers through branded digital content and web shops but send them to retailer websites to complete the sale.

“We are certainly seeing increased interest in both direct and indirect ecommerce with the grocery brand owners,” said John Beckett, co-founder and CEO of ecommerce company ChannelSight. ”This is driven in large part by the slowdown or low growth rates offline versus online, which is growing at a much faster rate. Granted this is off a far smaller base, but the trajectory is for continued significant growth online year over year well into the future. So it’s both a defensive and growth opportunity for brands with most initially focussing their efforts on helping to drive ecommerce growth through their retail partnerships versus direct. We expect that this shall remain the case in the near to mid-term.”

Direct-to-consumer subscription models are also gaining popularity, particularly in the US where the likes of Dollar Shave Club are putting pressure on traditional retail and supplier sales. P&G has responded by launching its own Gillette Shave Club, which is also now available in the UK.

Meanwhile, Tesco started trialling a razor blades subscription service last year but ended the service at the beginning of February.