The situation in Poland mirrors that in Hungary, one of the other leading countries due to join the European Union in May, where small stores still account for the majority of food purchases but where larger stores are rapidly gaining market share.
Quality, freshness, and price of products on store shelves are still the main factors influencing grocery purchases in Poland, according to the latest survey of buying habits from market research group GfK Polonia.
Cleanness of the store, friendly and competent personnel and a wide range of products are also important elements. On the other hand, the possibility of paying by a store card or credit card, whether a store runs a loyalty scheme and price promotions are rarely taken into account by Poles when choosing where to shop, the survey showed.
Small stores are the outlet of choice for 37 per cent of Poles - mostly those living in rural areas with low incomes - with some 36 per cent of them using such stores every day, evidence that freshness of food is a vital part of Polish grocery shopping.
Hypermarkets are preferred by 25 per cent of respondents, the GfK data shows, mainly the inhabitants of cities with a population of more than 500,000. Discount stores are a close third, with 24 per cent of respondents saying they preffered this format, mostly those living in rural areas or cities of up to 50,000 people.
Both hypermarket and discount store shoppers also use supermarkets to 'top up' their weekly shops, the survey showed. Supermarkets are also the preferred format for 21 per cent of shoppers.
The main reasons for choosing a store are its location - in particular if it is close to the place of residence or place of work - and its prices. Hypermarkets are also increasingly preferred because of the range of non-food products they offer as well, with 26 per cent of respondents saying that they had bought household appliances at hypermarkets.