UK grocery sales rise at record pace amid Covid-19 outbreak

Grocery sales rose at the fastest pace since records began in the three months to 12 July as the UK shifted to making meals at home during the temporary closures of restaurants, cafes and workplaces in the coronavirus lockdown.

Sales of groceries, excluding takeaway food and drink, rose 16.9% in the three-month period with local shops and online services seeing the bulk of that growth, according to the latest figures from the market research firm Kantar.

Online grocery sales jumped 92% in the four weeks to 12 July, rising to 13% of the grocery market from just more than 7% before the lockdown started. Independent convenience stores increased sales by 59.5% over the three-month period with the Co-op and Iceland also benefiting from a trend towards shopping closer to home.

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Separate data from analysts at Nielsen shows almost half of the additional cash spent on groceries during the lockdown period went to convenience stores.

Alcohol sales in supermarkets and corner shops soared by 41% as pubs and bars remained closed for most of the period and many people preferred to drink at home even after the lockdown eased on 4 July.

“We are clearly a long way off a complete return to normality,” said Fraser McKevitt, the head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar. He said shoppers were travelling 10% further to go shopping and the pace of growth in grocery sales had slowed to 14.6% in recent weeks as restaurants and pubs reopened.

However, McKevitt said there was still a reluctance to leave home. “[The number of shoppers visiting stores] was still 15% lower during the past four weeks and the average spend on a supermarket trip was £25.05, 35% more than the same period last year, as most people continue to eat more meals and snacks at home.”

Mike Watkins, the Nielsen UK head of retailer and business insight, said: “Though restaurants and pubs have reopened, we expect grocery sales to continue growing, as there remains a degree of caution when it comes to dining out. The demand for staycations will also boost usual summer grocery levels as customers opt to stay at home or holiday in the UK. If the weather stays warm, this will be a boost for the supermarkets.”

But he warned that the looming recession could place strain on family budgets. He said that spending was likely to be held back as consumer confidence slid 18 points in the second quarter of 2020 to the lowest level since the end of 2013.

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