U.K. sees record grocery sales growth in spring

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U.K. sees record grocery sales growth in spring

British take-home grocery sales rose by 14.3% during the 12 weeks to 17 May, the fastest rate since comparable records began in 1994, according to the latest figures released by Kantar.

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.

While these are bumper figures, Kantar said 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 £1bn (US$1.2bn) over the course of 12 weeks and they aren’t included in these numbers.

In the latest four weeks to 17 May, take-home grocery sales growth accelerated to 17.2% year on year as the Government announced the first stage of easing lockdown restrictions.

During that period, the trend towards fewer, larger shops that seen in April broadly continued. 

Much of the extra money spent has been directed online, and shoppers trying to make use of delivery services when they can have increased digital sales 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.

Kantar said 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. 

While the gains made by online shopping are unlikely to be sustained at these levels, the crisis has certainly accelerated the move towards online, Kantar said.

The grocers have attracted a new group of customers, in particular older demographics, and Kantar expects some of them may continue using online services and enjoying the convenience that home delivery provides.

Lockdown easing will have "significant impact" on sales

Consumers are taking their first tentative steps out of the full lockdown and the number of people visiting bricks-and-mortar shops began to increase ever so slightly in the week leading up to 17 May, following the relaxation of some measures by the British Government on the previous Sunday.

Looking ahead, Kantar said 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.

However, with plans for reopening the hospitality sector still uncertain, Kantar is currently projecting that extra meals, snacks and drinks consumed at home will mean take-home sales at the grocers could be up 12% over the course of 2020 as a whole.

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