UK lockdown drives fastest growth in grocery sales for over 25 years

LONDON (Reuters) – UK grocery sales grew at the fastest rate since comparable records began in 1994 as Britons adapted their behaviour in the national lockdown, industry data showed on Wednesday.

Market researcher Kantar said total UK grocery sales rose 14.3% to 31.4 billion pounds ($38.6 billion) in the 12 weeks to May 17 – a period which includes both the pre-lockdown rush to the shops in March, and eight weeks of stay-at-home advice from the government.

Britain has been in lockdown since March 23, though restrictions are being gradually eased.

The sales increase reflects the shift in demand from the out-of-home market, with pubs, cafes and restaurants closed in the lockdown, to at-home food consumption.

Of Britain’s big four grocers, industry leader Tesco (L:TSCO) was the best performer with sales up 12.7%, followed by No. 2 Sainsbury ‘s (L:SBRY) with a 12.5% increase. No. 4 Morrisons’ (L:MRW) sales rose 9.8%, while Walmart-owned (N:WMT) Asda was the laggard with a 6.5% increase.

The overall star performers were the Co-operative, the No. 6 player, with a sales increase of 30.8%, and online grocer Ocado (L:OCDO), with a rise of 32.5%. And while discounter Aldi’s sales rose 10.4% it did see a loss of market share.

Kantar said that in the most recent four-week period to May 17, sales growth accelerated to 17.2% year-on-year as the government announced the first easing of lockdown restrictions.

In the four weeks, the trend towards fewer, larger shops evident in April continued. Kantar said shoppers visited a supermarket 3.5 times per week on average, meaning 100 million fewer trips overall than the same month last year, and increased their spending each trip to 27.41 pounds ($33.7) – nearly 50% more than during pre-crisis times.

Separately on Wednesday, rival market researcher Nielsen highlighted record online grocery spending.