Monday, 7 November 2016

Poles and Brits go shopping... differently

It was one of those moments where the penny dropped and things I had subconsciously seen became illuminated by the strong light of reason. I was speaking at a panel session of an HSBC trade conference in Warsaw last week; in the plenary session opening the event there was a presentation from a German firm of consultants, Simon + Kucher & Partners, setting out the result of a survey of shoppers from across the EU, looking at how they shopped.

The results were amazing: of the nine countries surveyed, Poles showed the highest levels of 'Shopping IQ', Britons the lowest.

On a scale of 1-1000, Poles scored 566, Brits 401. The study rated shoppers for thriftiness, self-control, openness to trying new products (as opposed to sticking to the same ones), brand loyalty, comparison shopping, and researching items before buying. "Shoppers in countries with high shopping IQ scores tend to be more careful and consider their purchasing decisions, while those with lower shopping IQs tend to be highly impulsive," the consultants explain.

This squares with my own observations. It's not just about Britain being wealthier than Poland; Germany is wealthier than Britain, yet Germans score higher than Brits. Is it about advertising? That British advertising is effective and omnipresent, and always has been? Is it about high levels of credit card penetration, creating a 'buy now, pay later' culture? Is it the sheer sophistication of retailing? Is it merely needs vs. wants, and an inability to delay gratification?

Don't know - but I can certainly see and feel the difference when out shopping across the two countries.

The upshot of this is that Polish exporters trying to sell consumer products to the UK need to use different strategies than when they're selling on the home market - and vice-versa. British exporters also need to appreciate that Polish consumers are a different sell to consumers back home.

For a Polish exporter of say, a food or drink product, getting into the UK consumer's basket or trolley for the first time would be harder than at home - price is not the issue, rather, habit is.

For the British exporter of a food or drink product, getting into the Polish consumer's basket or trolley for the first time would also be harder than at home - even if we're talking about a premium product, the Polish consumer is likely to check against alternatives before buying.

In Poland, whole families will clamber into their big SUV and drive seven kilometres across town to a shop where a given product is a few zlotys cheaper; the cost of fuel and time spent driving less relevant than the satisfaction of having made that saving. "Nie oszukali nas!" In Britain, however, the motto imported from the US - "Give me convenience, or give me death" (to quote the Dead Kennedys) means that price-comparison shopping is less of a thing. "I know it's cheaper at Tesco -  I'm buying it at Waitrose". Brits will do price comparison when shopping online for purchases that bring little joy, things such as motor or home insurance, or six-packs of mineral water or pet food.

How do I shop? I confess to shopping more along the British model. I'm more brand loyal (Loake for shoes, Nikon for cameras, Levis for jeans - for decades), and if I'm after something I won't look elsewhere for a slightly better deal. On the other hand, I'm highly resistant to impulse shopping, and I do carry out extensive research online before making major purchases. My father shops more like a Pole than a Brit, despite living in London for 70 years. Like me, he likes shopping at Lidl; he also looks out for bargains and uses discount coupons (especially at Waitrose).

Now, this survey was carried out more than ten years ago, before the global economic crisis, but there are ingrained habits that have survived. I remember seeing this middle-aged couple in Auchan; he picks up some interesting packet from the world foods aisle. She immediately asks him: "How do you make it, then?" He mumbled something in reply, then meekly put it back on the shelf.

For more insights into Polish shopping habits, see this report summary from PMR.

This time last year:
Reanimated - my father's car

This time two years ago:
Defending Poland against hybrid warfare 

This time three years ago:
Another office move

This time five years ago:
PiS splits again - Solidarna Polska formed

This time six years ago:
Tesco vs. Auchan

This time nine years ago:
My father's house

1 comment:

dr Marcin said...


IMHO, it's about of a half of a century to stay in an economy of scarce. Thou, it's a sufficient experimental range to train how to be smart and intelligent while shopping and how to make a choice of the best solutions. Sorrowfully, but a welfare state brings to a consumer laziness. If you may afford of everything, so why you should train your gray cells in your brain how to conceptualize your shopping decisions for. You don't have even to think about that and have any dilemmas, cos commercial ads gonna explain everything on behalf of you. That's why media houses and PR agencies are incredibly expensive. Next in a lane stay lawyers, tax consultants and other financial fellows.

All the very best