UK consumers choosing big weekly shops during lockdown

The big weekly shop has made a comeback with supermarkets reporting record trolley loads as Britons develop new lockdown routines.

Latest figures from grocery analysts Kantar show shoppers spent £524m more on groceries so far in April, despite the fact that the number of supermarket visits dropped sharply. There was also a near 40% increase in convenience store sales as people turned to local shops to satisfy their daily needs.

Fraser McKevitt, the head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar, said: “People are spending more time at home and eating fewer meals out of the house, which has led to a strong growth in take-home grocery sales.” However physical distancing meant spending in other parts of the store, such as on clothing and takeaway fare such as sandwiches, salads and coffee, had collapsed, he said.

Before the coronavirus struck Britons were increasingly doing small top-up shops but the return of the big shop was confirmed by the Tesco chief executive, Dave Lewis, who said the number of transactions in its stores had nearly halved in April but that the amount being bought on each trip had doubled.

On average, British households went food shopping 14 times in April, which compares with 17 trips in more normal times. The drop was offset by a surge in the amount spent per trip, which reached £26. This is the highest figure ever recorded by Kantar and £7 greater than in 2019.

The lockdown had also changed what people bought, with shoppers finding new ways to enjoy themselves while staying home. There had been a surge in demand for baking ingredients, with sales of suet up by 115% and sugar by 46%, according to Kantar. Over 40% of consumers it polled said they are doing more home baking now.

The data showed grocery sales were 9.1% higher in the 12 weeks to 19 April than in 2019. It also showed this month the proportion of groceries bought online had exceeded 10% for the first time, as the major supermarkets added delivery slots to support self-isolating households. The over-65s in particular flocked online, almost doubling the amount they spent on food deliveries as the coronavirus forced them to stay at home.

McKevitt said: “Retailers’ efforts to increase their online capacity are clearly working, with shopper numbers up by a quarter. Online sales now account for 10.2% of overall grocery, versus 7.4% last month, with the greatest increase among older shoppers.”

Lewis told the BBC Tesco had doubled its online capacity since the outbreak began to one million orders a week. The supermarket would add a further 200,000 slots over the next 10 days, Lewis said, adding: “We’re trying to help as many people as we can. And the single biggest thing has been the change in online shopping.”

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