Ask The Buyer: Lilia Smith, Harrods
It goes almost without saying that the past six months have re-shaped the retail landscape in a way that few could have predicted or imagined even just a year ago. But whether these shifts are here to stay is another matter altogether.
We caught up with Lilia Smith, Food Trend Researcher at London’s iconic Harrods, to learn about the shifts in behaviour that she’s observed in since the beginning of the year, hear her predictions for the future, and discover what kind of brands she’s hoping to uncover at Futureminded 2020.
What main shift have you noticed since the start of the covid-19 pandemic when it comes to customer behaviour?
The most notable change I noticed was the increased interest in the fresh category at the start of lockdown. Essentials such as eggs, as well as fresh meat and fish. Still now, meat and fish remain particularly popular categories.
Do you think there are food trends that Covid-19 has accelerated/decelerated, and if so, what are these?
Packaging sustainability has been slightly decelerated, with consumers wanting pre-packed options now more than before. For example, now we package our breads which used to be loose on the counter. But sustainability generally remains a strong focus and we are doing lots behind the scenes on that. In terms of packaging, I think finding eco-solutions that keep the product “touch-free” will be really well-received.
In terms of health and wellness, I think people have been paying more attention to physical and mental health, and it’s been talked about in the news more. Whether people have been making healthier choices is a different matter, but I believe interest in the topic has increased.
Have there been any surprise spikes in demand in terms of products?
Online food gifting and hampers saw spikes in demand during lockdown, and that’s been the same in other companies. This demand still remains, and is also now shifting towards products for in-person celebrations and reunions.
Have you noticed a shift in the brands that consumers are opting for?
Mainly that there’s an increased interest in supporting local, small businesses and also in brands that are really transparent on provenance.
What – if any – changes do you think are here to stay?
I’d say the move to virtual and to online is here to stay. It won’t be for everyone, but I think a lot more people have tried online shopping and realised it’s convenience, and some shoppers will stick to that. Speedy online delivery will also be an increasingly big as consumers want things quickly.
Also, the move towards experiential stores was already present before the pandemic but will be even more important now. Now most people have tried out delivery, it’s all about the experience and the services of being in store which will get people choosing that option.
What would you love to discover at Futureminded 2020?
I’d love to find out about different health brands on the market, and how sales have been for them. I loved the talks last year, so would love more of that sort of thing too.