roast dinner

A Mother’s Day Sunday roast boosted supermarket sales last month

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Shoppers have been encouraged to put more in their baskets as inflation eased back to more manageable levels, according to the latest market data released this morning.

Total till sales at UK supermarkets grew 5.4% in the past four weeks to 23 March, NIQ revealed. While a slight increase compared with last month’s growth of 5.3%, the slowdown in food price rises saw shoppers buy more and also spend more, up from £19.50 to £20.10 month on month, the consumer intelligence company added.

Visits to store increased by 1.1% but there was a slowdown in the growth of online to 3.1%, with online’ s share of fmcg spend dipping to 10.9% compared with 11 a year ago.

Mother’s Day discounts also helped supermarkets increase sales 11.9% in the week ended 9 March, with an uplift in sales of fresh produce and meat, fish and poultry.

In terms of retailer performance over the past 12 weeks, Sainsbury’s (+7.9%) and Tesco (+6.3%) were the fastest growing supermarkets, with M&S (+11.2%) and Ocado (+13%) also growing market share. Morrisons also saw an increase (+4.7%) in sales, with Asda seeing the slowest growth (+0.8%) in the time period. Lidl’s growth came in at 9.4% and Aldi registered 3.9%.

Mike Watkins, NIQ’s UK head of retailer and business insight, said: “As inflation slows, we have seen an improvement in grocery sales volumes during Q1.

“A driver of this was the further fall in food prices in March, together with intense competition amongst the supermarkets looking to drive footfall with promotional offers as seen on Mother’s Day and in the weeks leading up to Easter. However, overall consumer spend remains under pressure as many household bills continue to increase above CPI and this is reflected in the continued weak consumer confidence.”

He added: “Encouraging more visits is likely to be the next battleground for retailers now that we have lower inflation. The wet and cold weather in the first quarter of the year may have deterred some store visits, but we saw that the early Easter offered some attractive seasonal promotions which encouraged shoppers to buy more. When drier, warmer spring weather eventually arrives this will continue to support volume growths across all channels.“

Morning update

Profits have bounced back at Hilton Food Group as a turnaround in the seafood division progressed ahead of expectations.

Revenues in the year to 31 December 2023 increased 3.7% to £3.98bn, with volumes up 0.7%. It marked a trend of continuous volume growth achieved in every year since Hilton’s flotation in 2007.

Adjusted operating profits rose 33.5% to £95m, while pre-tax profits jumped 64.2% to £48.6m.

Hilton hailed a strong recovery in the seafood business, which returned to full-year operating profitability, and highlighted international growth thanks to a new deal with Walmart in Canada.

The group added that the core meat category continued to perform well, but warned market challenges in its vegan business remained.

Hilton revaled it had consolidated its vegan and vegetarian business into a single operating facility during the year, taking a £1.2m impairment charge in the process.

CEO Steve Murrells said: “Over the past year we’ve remained focused on executing our strategy which has resulted in a good performance against a challenging market. I am particularly pleased with the results in our seafood category, returning to full year operating profitability following a successful turnaround.

“Our core meat category performed strongly and we worked closely with customers to offer the highest quality and most relevant food products to consumers.”

Shares in the group moved 2.1% higher to 872p this morning.

Property investor Supermarket Income REIT has increased its unsecured debt facility by £37.5m to £104.5m.

The interest-only facility with Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation matures in September 2026.

Ben Green, director of Atrato Capital, the investment adviser to Supermarket Income REIT, said: “We are pleased to continue our relationship with SMBC, a key funding partner to the company.

“Our strong relationships with existing lenders, and quality of the portfolio, continues to allow the company to access debt financing at attractive margins.”

The FTSE 100 opened down 0.2% to 7,916.19pts.

McBride leads the early risers, up 4.6% to 104p, with Nichols up 3.6% to 1,005p and PayPoint up 3.3% to 498p.

Greencore has fallen 2.2% to 123.2p in the early going, with Ocado down 0.9% to 432p and Sainsbury’s down 0.8% to 265.8p.

Yesterday in the City

The FTSE 100 slid 0.2% to 7,935.09pts as April got underway following the bank holiday weekend.

Fmcg risers included Greencore and Naked Wines, up 5.6% to 126p and 2.5% to 57.6p respectively.

Reckitt Benckiser, THG, Ocado and Fever-Tree Drinks were among the fallers, down 4.2% to 4,324.8p, 5.1% to 65.5p, 4.2% to 435.9p and 3.9% to 1,154p respectively.