Grocery sales cool as socialising returns, but still higher than pre-Covid

Grocery sales dip 0.4% as socialising returns, but still higher than pre-Covid
As lockdown eases, people are returning to more normal habits and we can see that reflected in grocery sales," Kantar head of retail insight Fraser McKevitt said.
// Grocery sales in the 12 weeks to May 16 compared falls marginally by 0.4% to £31.3bn
// This is still £3.8bn higher than pre-Covid pandemic levels
// Co-op & Iceland supermarkets took the biggest hit at the tills, while Lidl and Aldi enjoy largest rises

Grocery sales have taken a slight dip in the wake of the easing lockdown restrictions, but they still remain almost £4 billion higher than what they were before the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to new data from Kantar, grocery sales in the 12 weeks to May 16 compared with the same period a year ago fell marginally by 0.4 per cent to £31.3 billion.

Nonetheless, this was still £3.8 billion higher than pre-pandemic levels.

With households allowed to socialise again, shoppers appeared keen to make a good impression as sales of mouthwash, hairstyling products and shoe polish soared in recent weeks, according to Kantar.

However, as the public head to restaurants and bars again, overall supermarket sales cooled compared to a year ago at a time when shelves were stripped bare and panic buying set in.

Co-op and Iceland supermarkets took the biggest hit at the tills, with Lidl and Aldi enjoying the largest rises.


“As lockdown eases, people are returning to more normal habits and we can see that reflected in grocery sales,” Kantar head of retail insight Fraser McKevitt said.

“Many of us this time last year were eating all our meals at home and we bought extra food and drink as a result.

“Now we’re seeing take-home grocery sales dip versus 2020 as people are able to eat in restaurants, pubs and cafes and can pick up food on the go again, grabbing a sandwich, for example, while they’re out and about at the weekend.”

He added that on-the-go grocery sales look set to be a significant driver of growth for supermarkets over the next few months.

Shoppers also felt more confident heading to stores again, with 58 million more visits to supermarkets compared to May last year, with the biggest growth in London where trips were up by a quarter.

McKevitt also said that data suggests customers were returning to previous habits of making more regular trips, rather than doing big weekly shops as they were doing during the height of the pandemic.

The average basket size per shop has fallen for three consecutive months to £22.82 – the lowest level since before the pandemic and restrictions hit.

Online grocery shopping also fell from 13.9 per cent of total spend in the sector to 13.4 per cent – although it remains higher than before the crisis and the number of customers heading to independent and convenience stores also dropped.

“During the first national lockdown last year many people found solace in the early summer sunshine, something 2021 has so far failed to deliver,” McKevitt said.

“This saw sales of barbecue staples like burgers fall in May by 20 per cent year on year. Chilled desserts, up by 14 per cent, fared better – no doubt buoyed by those hardy people braving the weather to entertain friends and family in the garden.”

With households able to socialise again, quick cooking times became more important, with a 20 per cent rise in chilled ready meals, 28 per cent jumps in cooked chicken and fillings for sandwiches rising 12 per cent.

Splitting out individual supermarkets, discounters Aldi and Lidl had the best performing period – benefiting from customers returning to stores, with both not offering online deliveries.

Aldi sales rose 5.2 per cent and Lidl by 4.6 per cent.

Of the Big 4 supermarkets – Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons – Asda enjoyed the biggest rise, growing 1.9 per cent.

However, the Co-op saw a heavy decline of 12.1 per cent compared with a year ago and Iceland suffered a 5.3 per cent drop in sales.

with PA Wires

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