Kantar: Aided by easing of restrictions, British grocers see significant sales spikes

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Kantar Worldpanel says take-home supermarket sales in the UK increased by more than 14 percent from March through mid-May, the highest number in the 26 years that records have been kept.

The 14.3% number was buoyed by a stellar four weeks that ended May 17, where sales increased 17.2% year on year as the British government implemented the first stage of lockdown restrictions.

“The most recent three-month period now includes both the pre-lockdown rush to the shops in March, and eight weeks of stay-at-home advice from Government – a combination which has resulted in the fastest growth in take-home grocery sales for over 25 years," Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar says.

"While these are bumper figures, it remains true that the overall picture for some grocers will be less positive, as supermarkets continue to feel the impact of a considerable reduction in on-the-go spend on meals, drinks and snacks. Those categories usually add up to £1 billion* over the course of 12 weeks and they aren’t included in these numbers.”

McKevitt says while shoppers visited grocery stores an average of 3.5 times per week (or 100 million fewer trips than the same month last year), they spent £27.41 per visit "nearly 50% more than they did" during regular times.  

“People have been working their way through their store cupboards over the past couple of months and some will now be spending a bit more on each visit to the supermarket to replenish supplies," McKevitt says. "The greatest rise in spending has been among families with children over the age of 16 living at home, reaching £618 on average this month compared with £545 last May, as they continue to cater for more people living under one roof and compensate for meals not eaten at work, school or college, or while socialising with friends”.   

McKevitt says digital sales overall have increased by 75%.   

“Online shopping now accounts for 11.5% of all grocery sales, gaining more ground and attracting more new shoppers in 2020 than the channel has in the previous five years," he says. "The retailers have done a brilliant job of reacting to a sudden spike in demand by increasing their online capacity, and it’s meant that nearly one in five British households ordered groceries online in the most recent four weeks, 1.6 million more than this time last year.  And it’s not just groceries experiencing a boom – people missing their favourite restaurants and wanting to treat themselves have pushed takeaway deliveries** up by 250% year-on-year.

“While the gains made by online shopping are unlikely to be sustained at these levels, the crisis has certainly accelerated the move towards online. The grocers have attracted a new group of customers, in particular older demographics, and we expect some of them may continue using online services and enjoying the convenience that home delivery provides."

McKevitt adds, “Shoppers and retailers are now thinking about what the impact of a less restrictive lockdown will be, and a phased re-opening of non-essential retail and the out-of-home food and drink sector will have a significant impact on grocery sales in the coming months.”

Kartar reports that the 10 major supermarkets and the combined group of independent retailers increased sales in the 12 weeks to 17 May. Online retailer Ocado saw sales rise by 32.5%. Shoppers staying closer to home and avoiding large supermarkets were a boon to Co-op (30.8%), Iceland (28.6%), Lidl (16.5%) and independent retailers (63.1%).  

Other supermarkets reporting: Tesco rose by 12.7%, Sainsbury’s by 12.5%, Asda by 6.5% and Morrisons by 9.8%. Aldi and Waitrose saw sales rise by 10.4% and 12.5% respectively.

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