Grocery sales fall 4% as pre pandemic habits return

Waitrose was the only grocer to increase sales in the past 12 weeks, with growth of 0.6%

Grocery sales fell by 4.0% during the 12 weeks to 8 August 2021 compared with the same time last year as consumers have started to return to pre-pandemic spending habits, according to the latest figures from Kantar.

In the shorter term, Kantar found sales are declining much more slowly: by 0.5% over the past four weeks. However, It added it is apparent that Covid-19 is “still having an impact on people’s spending”, as grocery sales remain 9.9% higher in the latest 12 weeks than the same period in 2019.

It noted that with the end of social distancing restrictions, people have been happier to head into stores to make more regular, smaller shops. Consumers made an extra 108,000 shopping trips this month, while average basket sizes were 10% smaller.

The market researcher said the gradual return to more traditional behaviour is also affecting online grocery sales, with take up of online grocery shopping growing rapidly during the pandemic, but as lockdown restrictions have loosened a “divide is beginning to emerge”.

Just over 20% of the population bought groceries online in the latest 12 weeks, the lowest level seen since October last year, while the share of grocery sales made online now stands at 13.0%, down from a peak of 15.4% in February.

It added the shift away from online has contributed to Ocado’s sales falling by 0.7%, its first decline on record. However, Ocado has retained 1.8% of total grocery sales, the same as last year, and sales are up by 44.4% compared with 2019, the fastest two-year growth in the market.

Waitrose was the only grocer to increase sales in the past 12 weeks, with growth of 0.6% as it attracted 365,000 more shoppers than it did last year. The retailer expanded its market share by 0.2 percentage points, up to 4.9%.

Tesco’s share of grocery sales increased by 0.6 percentage points from 26.6% to 27.2%, its largest year-on-year share gain since 2007. Sales were bolstered by its premium ‘Finest’ range, which rose by £29 million.

Sainsbury’s share also nudged up by 0.3 percentage points to give it 15.2% of the market. Asda saw a 17% jump in the number of shopping trips compared with last year, now holding 14.2% of grocery sales. Meanwhile, Morrisons share dipped to 10.0%, with sales falling by 6.2% as they are measured against a strong performance last year.

Discount retailers Aldi and Lidl both gained market share. Kantar found that Aldi now holds 8.2% of the market and Lidl 6.1%. Co-op and Iceland, two of the standout performers of the past 18 months, saw sales fall year-on-year – with market shares of 6.6% and 2.3% respectively.

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