Online grocery sales fall by 10% as in-store sales rise to £7.7bn

Online share of grocery spend has declined to 12.7% but this is still close to the 13.4% in May 2020 during the height of the first lockdown

UK supermarkets experienced 50 million more in-store visits in the last four weeks ending 14 August 2021 compared with the same period last year, with store sales rising to £7.7bn, according to new data released by NielsenIQ. 

Nielsen revealed this figure comes at the expense of online grocery sales, which have fallen by 10% compared to a year ago, reaching £1.1bn in sales. 

Despite this decline, it added that in online grocery sales as a result of the easing of restrictions, online still remains a popular channel with UK shoppers, who are still spending a total of £1.1bn on their online grocery shop every four weeks compared with £1.2bn this time last year. 

Online share of grocery spend has declined to 12.7% but this is still close to the 13.4% in May 2020 during the height of the first lockdown. In contrast, visits to stores are up 12% with this shift back to stores suggesting “improving shopper confidence following the growth in vaccination rates, with shoppers more willing to shop more often and at more retailers, as well as the easing of social distancing restrictions in recent weeks, and a boost from summer weather”. 

This is reflected in the Total Till grocery sales figures, which rose by +1.1% in the last four weeks ending 14 August 2021, partly helped by a short heatwave in the week ending 24 July when sales peaked at +6.2%. This was the most upbeat weekly sales since the Easter period and is a reminder of how weather can “move the dial on shopper spend”.

NielsenIQ data shows that confectionery (+9.6%) and soft drinks (+5.5%) categories experienced “healthy growth”, as consumers sought to purchase items for socialising and enjoying the tail end of the summer of sport, which included celebrating the Olympics, and holidays in the UK. As well as this, convenience foods such as delicatessen (+9.5%) and bakery (+8.1%) also experienced an uplift.  

It also found that Lidl (16%) and Aldi (7.3%) led the market in terms of growth in the last 12 weeks and Marks and Spencer (5.5%) continued to experience good growth, helped by increased summer footfall and spending at its food halls in particular over the last four weeks.

Mike Watkins, NielsenIQ’s UK head of Retailer and Business Insight, said: “Shoppers seem more confident in visiting stores, which has had an impact on online grocery. However, the decline in online sales was expected as it is largely due to shoppers no longer needing to make such large shops as lifestyles finally started to normalise. 

“What is important is that despite there being a lack of new online shoppers over the last 12 weeks, existing online shoppers are staying – just spending differently.”

He added: “Food retail sales have been helped by events and warm weather in recent weeks but with the summer holidays soon coming to an end, retailers will need to keep their fingers crossed for an improving consumer sentiment to drive spending, particularly as we head into Q4, which could be a more challenging period with equally high comparatives.”

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