“I have to say, the difference is pretty big,” he said. Apparently Clegg, on his salary of £61,000 plus expenses, and his wife – a commercial lawyer – were struggling to pay the mortgage on their £1.3m London home.
Clearly the answer was to economise on groceries. He didn’t make it clear in the interview whether he shopped online or in a real-world store, but with Aldi, Lidl and Netto reporting sales increases of between 15% and 20%, Clegg is clearly not the only shopper feeling the need to economise.
There is little growth in the online food and beverage sector, with beer, wine and spirits up by just 1.9% compared with a total online market increase for the month of 11.3%, according to the latest IMRG Capgemini Online Index.
The latest quarterly IMRG Hitwise Hot Shops Index of the most popular websites has Tesco.com in fourth place, the same place it occupied in the previous quarterly report in May; Tesco Direct at number nine, down one from eight; Asda at number 36, down five from 31; and Sainsbury’s at 44, down two from 42.
It is slim evidence, but a suggestion nonetheless that shoppers are perhaps not quite so keen on buying groceries online as once they were. Both shopping online and instore have their thrifty merits. Online you can stick to the list without being tempted by exotic goodies; instore there are generous discounts on items close to their sell-by. Online also has a distinct financial disadvantage: for shoppers in a hurry it is all too easy simply to repeat last week’s list.
Unfortunately, and I’m not the only one to have made this mistake, it’s all too easy to accumulate six packets of cornflour and four litres of olive oil by hastily clicking repeat without checking too carefully what you’re ordering.
Today, none of us can afford to do that – not even Nick Clegg. Perhaps the high street really is starting to fight back?
Penelope Ody is a freelance journalist who has written about the retail sector for more than 30 years.