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Supermarket visits rise by 58 million amid vaccine rollout

Despite an increase in supermarket visits, Kantar found that sales fell by 0.4% during the 12 weeks to 16 May 2021

UK shoppers made 58 million more visits to the supermarket in the most recent four weeks than they did in May 2020, according to the latest take-home grocery figures from Kantar.

As the vaccine rollout continues, it noted that consumers are getting more confident returning to stores. The greatest acceleration in supermarket visits has been seen in London, where trips are up by more than a quarter. 

Consumers were also returning to more normal habits which is reflected in the latest data. Kantar found signs that the big weekly shop, which made a comeback last year while people tried to reduce time spent outside of home, may be “on its way out”, for example. 

Basket sizes have also fallen for three months in a row and the average price of a trip to the grocery store over the month to 16 May is £22.82, the lowest since March last year.

Despite an increase in supermarket visits, Kantar found that sales fell by 0.4% during the 12 weeks to 16 May 2021, reflecting a “tough comparison” with the “exceptionally” high sales during the first three months of the pandemic last year. 

However, sales remain stronger than they were before the pandemic and shoppers spent an additional £3.8bn at the supermarket in the past three months compared with the same period in 2019. 

It said: “Many of us this time last year were eating all our meals at home and we bought extra food and drink as a result. Now we’re seeing take-home grocery sales dip versus 2020 as people are able to eat in restaurants, pubs and cafés and can pick up food on the go again, grabbing a sandwich, for example, while they’re out and about at the weekend.” 

It added that while not captured in these take-home figures, on-the-go grocery sales are “set to be a significant driver of growth for supermarkets over the next few months”. 

The proportion of supermarket sales made online remains “much higher” than 2019 levels but fell back from 13.9% in April to 13.4% in the latest month. 

Convenience stores, both independents and smaller formats of the major chains, are also seeing some of their market share gains “unwind”. Collectively these smaller stores now account for 12.5% of sales, down from 14.9% in May 2020.

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