Grocery growth slows as UK market eases out of lockdown

UK grocery spend was the lowest since February, as the market moves away from the heady heights of the lockdown period.
18 August 2020
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Charlotte Scott

Consumer Insight Director

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The latest grocery market share figures from Kantar show take-home grocery sales growth slowed to 14.4% year on year during the 12 weeks to 9 August 2020. The market is beginning to move away from the heady heights of the lockdown period. Grocery spend of £9.7 billion over the past four weeks makes it the lowest since February, although this is still considerably higher than pre-pandemic levels.

While things are far from normal, the data shows a gradual softening of the more extreme lockdown trends in the grocery market. The relaxing of rules across much of the country means shoppers are less inclined to stock up their cupboards with regular large trips, and average spend has dropped below £25 for the first time since March. However, at £24, it is still a world away from the pre-COVID-19 average of £19 per trip.

Although the current average of 14 shopping trips per month per household is lower than it was last month, it is higher than in April and May, when lockdown rules were much tighter. So, while some consumers have shopped more often in the past month, the story varies in different parts of the country, with localised lockdowns and slower openings resulting in people making fewer trips in the North, the Midlands and Wales.

This period saw the introduction of mandatory face coverings for visiting shops in England. The number of supermarket trips was two million lower than would have usually been expected in the week after the rule was adopted, and currently just over half of shoppers say they feel safe in stores. That suggests the public may need time to adjust to the new regulations, and they now have to plan ahead for every shopping trip.

One of the most significant lockdown trends, online shopping, reached another new record market share in the latest four weeks – with 13.5% of all sales now ordered through the internet. Ocado has been a major beneficiary of this, and it also hit a new record this month, registering a market share of 1.8% over the past 12 weeks and growth of 45.5%.

Elsewhere, wider economic issues will continue to dictate how the market performs. With the country officially entering recession last week, atypical behaviours are likely to continue. During a recession we would generally expect shoppers to manage their spend more carefully. Early evidence suggests that most are not yet choosing to trade down, with brands and premium own label lines currently performing well; however, price cuts have increased compared with July as some people look for opportunities to save.

August also marked the introduction of the Government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme, designed to give a shot in the arm to the hospitality industry. Early indications suggest that the initiative has been successful, with a significant uplift in footfall at restaurants, cafes and bars between Monday and Wednesday over the past fortnight. The exclusion of alcohol from the scheme may make that a resilient category for the grocers. Take-home alcohol sales over the past four weeks were up 28.3%.

The past month has seen a renewed focus on health, with wellbeing high on shoppers’ agendas. It seems people want to get back to their best after the long lockdown, and over the past month, we saw sales of vitamins and minerals grow at 34%, while herbal teas were up by 19% and nuts by 21%.

In the latest 12 weeks, all of the major retailers registered overall take-home sales growth. However, all bar Ocado saw that growth slow compared with July.

Morrisons was the fastest growing big four retailer, with sales up 16.0% driven by a particularly strong performance from its supermarket stores – it now accounts for 10.2% of the market. Despite Tesco being close behind in terms of growth, it lost market share of 0.4 percentage points bringing it to 26.6%. Sainsbury’s share now stands at 14.9%, losing 0.5 percentage points this month, while Asda lost 0.6 percentage points taking it to 14.3%.

Iceland was the second fastest growing retailer at 29.2%, its share increasing to 2.4%. Meanwhile, Co-op increased its share to 7.1%, with growth of 22.4%. Lidl successfully managed to hold its share steady at 5.9%, while Aldi and Waitrose both lost 0.2 percentage points taking them to 7.9% and 4.7% respectively.

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