Sainsburys delivery van

Total online sales declined 8.6%, but NielsenIQ said this was primarily the result of smaller online basket spend

Online grocery sales have declined as more shoppers visited stores ahead of Christmas, according to the latest NielsenIQ data.

In-store visits at UK supermarkets increased 6.5% in the four weeks to 6 November, equal to 28 million more visits compared with the same period last year.

As a result of this shift back to more traditional shopping, online share of sales fell to 12.2%, down from 12.6% in the previous four weeks.

Total online sales declined 8.6% – compared to a 1.7% fall at stores in the four weeks – but NielsenIQ said this was primarily the result of smaller online basket spend as shoppers no longer needed to stock up. However, with the percentage of households shopping online every four weeks down only 3% on this time last year, the firm added it showed habits gained in the pandemic were sticking.

Data also revealed shoppers embracing local and last-minute convenience, with growth at c-stores up 2.1% year on year.

“Shoppers are also returning to stores again and spending is expected to remain robust for the next six weeks with Christmas advertising campaigns now helping to boost the festive shopping momentum,” said Mike Watkins, NielsenIQ UK head of retailer and business insight.

Total till grocery sales fell 2% in the past four weeks as trading started to lap periods of extremely high demand, when shoppers stocked up ahead of the second lockdown that started on 4 November 2020.

On a two-year pre-pandemic basis, sales were up 4.9%.

Over the past 12 weeks, Aldi (7.9%) and Lidl (10.3%) experienced strong growth helped by new store openings in addition to customers beginning to ‘shop around’. Marks & Spencer (9.1%) also experienced healthy growth as shoppers started to look for indulgent treats ahead of the festive season.

Elsewhere, Tesco was the only big four retailer in growth (up 0.4%), with Asda down 2.4%, Sainsbury’s 3.1% and Morrisons 4.7%, while Waitrose fell 2.9%.

Watkins said: “Across the industry the average spend per visit has increased for the first time since July, up to £18.60 as shoppers get back into a regular grocery shopping mindset.

“Last year, Christmas was effectively cancelled, so this year we can expect shoppers to be spending far more than last year on festive food and drink, especially if they choose to economise by entertaining at home rather than eating out. This will no doubt support supermarket sales this Christmas, and we anticipate shoppers will spend a total of £33bn across the major supermarkets in Q4.”