C-stores see return to pre-pandemic growth rates in October

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Pedestrians walk in a shopping high street in Wrexham, North Wales on November 9, 2020. (Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

The trend of growth rates for the convenience channel falling back in line with the market has continued in October, with symbols and independents clocking 15.6 per cent growth in the 12 weeks to 1 November, Kantar data has shown.

Last month, the corresponding figure was 19.9 per cent, and the latest data marked a return to pre-pandemic rates, when the channel registered a robust sales growth of 16.1 percent in the first three months of the year.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, independent retailers have witnessed phenomenal increase in sales, peaking to a 69.3 per cent year-on-year jump in sales during the 12 weeks to 14 June.

The latest grocery market share figures from Kantar showed a 9.3 per cent rise in overall take-home sales, with online supermarket Ocado continuing to lead the growth chart with 36.1 per cent year on year increase in sales in the 12 weeks period.

Iceland (17.9%), Lidl (12.5%), Morrisons (11.4%) and Waitrose (10.6%) have all managed double digit growth figures in the data.

Kantar said there was no significant spike in demand in the most recent four weeks, despite a variety of restrictions coming into force across the country, as sales increased by a similar 9.4 per cent.

Data from Nielsen has also confirmed this, with the market researcher reporting a 6.9 per cent increase in October year-on-year, and 7.2 per cent in the last week of the month.

“While there was some uplift in Wales, the increased spending did not provide any evidence of stockpiling, and initial figures suggest no sign of panic buying in England either,” commented Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar.

Nielsen said over the four weeks to 31 October, UK shoppers spent an average of £17.70 per basket at stores and online, which was 20 per cent more than the same period last year.

However, the number of store visits continued to remain low, down 12 per cent year-on-year, as consumers avoided unnecessary travel and visits to stores.

Beers, wines and spirits, up 15 per cent, frozen food, up 16 per cent, and packaged grocery, up 11 per cent, were the fastest growing categories over the month.

McKevitt noted Iceland has been a huge beneficiary of the demand for frozen food since the beginning of the pandemic, helping to grow its market share to 2.3 per cent, from 2.1 per cent last year.

“Overall, the retailer’s sales were up by 17.9 per cent, and shoppers didn’t stop at the freezer section.  More was spent in Iceland’s chilled and ambient aisles as well, meaning the average spend per trip was worth 44 per cent more than in 2019, the greatest increase of any retailer,” he said.

Nielsen forecast UK shoppers would spend £2 billion more in supermarkets for the full quarter to 26 December, a record high and an expected sales growth of 7 per cent.

(With Agencies)