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New figures show scale of supermarket pandemic spending – online and in-store

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Shoppers spent an extra £1.9bn on groceries in more than 79m extra shopping trips in the last four weeks as they prepared for lockdown in the coronavirus outbreak, new analysis suggests. Online sales grew by 14% at the same time.

Nielsen figures suggest supermarket till takings grew by 20.5% in the four weeks to March 21, compared to the same time last year. Ecommerce sales grew by 14% in the four-week period, as two in 10 households bought online. That’s 600,000 households shopping online for the first time, with an extra 1.2m ecommerce orders placed over the period. 

Over the four weeks, Nielsen suggests, period, shoppers typically added one more item to their baskets on each shopping trip, buying 11 items and spending £16 per basket. They also made three extra shopping trips during the period – equating to 79m more trips than at the same time. 

Mike Watkins, of retailer and business insight at Nielsen, said: “With households making almost three extra shopping trips in the last four weeks, this small change in individual shopping behaviour has led to a seismic shift in overall shopping patterns. As well as increased store visits, consumers opted to shop online – many for the first time. However, unlike stores there is a finite capacity for online grocery shopping, due to warehouse capacity and available delivery slots, and this will have limited the growth of online sales.”

Shoppers started to stockpile necessities such as medicines, cleaning supplies, household and pet items and ambient food in the last week of February and first week of March, continuing into the third week of the period. They then moved on to stocking their freezers in the week to March 21, with frozen food sales up by 84% on last year, while also buying beer, wine and spirits (+67%) as pubs and restaurants closed. All UK supermarkets benefitted from the rise in sales, the figures found.   

Last week’s RetailX Coronavirus Consumer Sentiment Tracker, carried out on March 25, four days later than the Nielsen study, suggested that 43% of respondents were shopping online for groceries to the same extent as previously, while 26% were buying more, and 30.5% had either reduced spending or stopped buying groceries online. Some 41% said they were less able to buy online because websites were busy, while 10% said they were more able to buy online. 

Image: Adobe Stock

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