Supermarket sales are surging quicker than Dominic Cummings can get to Barnard Castle for an eye test. As the UK stays at home – well, most of us, anyway – grocery sales have continued to grow beyond the initial panic of lockdown.
So show the latest Kantar figures, released today. Take-home grocery sales rose 14.3% during the 12 weeks to 17 May, the fastest rate seen since 1994. Admittedly, that would have been bolstered by panic buying, but it’s not the full picture. The latest three-month period includes both the pre-lockdown rush and eight weeks of stay-at-home advice from government.
In fact, take-home grocery sales are accelerating now lockdown is easing, with growth hitting 17.2% year in the latest four weeks to 17 May. Shoppers made 100 million fewer trips to the supermarkets, but they increased their spend per trip to £27.41 – nearly 50% more than they spend during normal times. With plans for re-opening the hospitality sector still uncertain, Kantar predicts take-home sales in the grocers could be up 12% over the course of 2020.
Perhaps the most notable gain in these figures is in online shopping. It now accounts for 11.5% of all grocery sales, according to Kantar, having gained more shoppers in 2020 than in the previous five years. Nearly one in five British households ordered groceries online in the most recent four-week period – which is 1.6 million more than this time last year.
No one really knows what is going to happen when lockdown is eased further, high streets re-open and more Brits return to work. But I’d take a punt in saying that – now a whole new demographic of shoppers have tried and tested grocery deliveries – at least some of the growth in online shopping is here to stay. One of the major and ongoing barriers to online shopping has been doubts over the freshness of produce picked by the supermarkets. If consumers can be convinced on this point during lockdown, they are likely to stay with online orders once restrictions are eased.
That’s unlikely to be the only lasting change. Having spent lockdown cooking fresh meals and eating with their families at home, many Brits will be reluctant to return to frantic on-the-go lifestyles – even once Covid-19 is finally behind us.
It’s all food for thought for Britain’s supermarkets as they begin planning for life after lockdown. They’ve already demonstrated they can be nimble and resilient in the face of adversity. Now they are “comfortable behind the wheel” (as Cummings would say) let’s see if they can hold on to that growth and adapt to what’s shaping up to be a brave new world for everyone.
Carina is responsible for running and developing The Grocer’s digital operations. She commissions high-quality digital journalism from our award-winning editorial team and thought-provoking comment from industry players.
Follow Carina on Twitter: @CarinaPerkins