The British might be turned on if discounters were more tempting says Julian Hunt

Germans are doing it almost once a week, it seems. The French, meanwhile, say they enjoy doing it almost once a fortnight. But Brits are barely doing it twice a month. That’s right! New research for The Grocer confirms that the Germans really are in love with the idea of shopping in discount outlets, with 98% of all consumers admitting they have used such a store, and a staggering two-thirds of these shoppers claiming to pay a visit at least once a week.
The pan-European research conducted on our behalf by HI Europe reveals that massive cultural differences exist between British and German shoppers when it comes to hard discounting - the former coming over as grudging converts, while the latter are completely wedded to the concept.
The research also confirms that French consumers are being wooed by the hard discount formula - more than a quarter of shoppers who admit to using such stores say they now visit at least once a week.
But it is the differences between Britain and Germany that are the most fascinating.
“There is clearly a lot of room within the British grocery market for discount grocery retailing to catch up,” says Caroline North of HI Europe. “It isn’t just that fewer Brits are shopping in discount grocery stores, they are shopping there less often.”
HI Europe’s research shows that one third of British shoppers have never even been inside a discount grocery outlet. The good news is that this would suggest two-thirds of grocery shoppers have been tempted through the doors of a discounter - at least once. The bad news is that of those that have, most say they use such outlets once a month or less, and 14% say they are not likely to use them again.
Interestingly, the research also suggests that British shoppers don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with using a discount store to buy groceries - echoing the CCRRE study previewed on the right.
So why are we so different to Germany? It’s partly historical, of course, as their love affair with discounting has been building over a number of years.
There are also big structural issues for the discounters to overcome, with almost a quarter of the British shoppers quizzed by HI Europe saying they would be tempted to use discount stores if they were found in more convenient locations.
Nevertheless, British shoppers do come over as being a lot more negative than their German cousins about discounters. We are more than twice as likely as the Germans to say we do not like the environment in discount stores; we have more concerns about the quality of the foods on offer; and we are more likely than German shoppers to say discounting doesn’t fit into our lifestyles.
It’s worth stressing that the numbers of Brits expressing such negative vibes are surprisingly small. And yet, as North says: “The results show that paying close attention to store location, shopping environment and cultural influences could all play an important part in increasing footfall.”
Delving deeper into the research shows there is no noticeable north/south divide when it comes to using hard discount stores on a regular basis; and there are no surprises when it comes to income either. HI Europe’s study also reveals that while British women claim they are more likely to use discount stores, men are nearly twice as likely to be actually using such an outlet at least once a week. In addition, those aged 35-plus are more likely to be regular users of discount stores than 25 to 34-year-olds.
The message is clear: the discounters still need to do a better job at courting the Brits if we are ever to fall in love with them.