Convenience stores lag as grocery sales fall on fewer store visits

A customer looks at packages of chilled chicken cuts in a half-empty refrigerated display unit at a Lidl supermarket store in Walthamstow, west London, on September 21, 2021. (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)

Take-home grocery sales fell by 1.2 per cent over the 12 weeks to 3 October 2021, according to the latest figures from Kantar. Despite this dip, sales remain 8.1 per cent higher than they were before COVID-19 and every retailer boosted its sales compared with the same period in 2019.

However, symbols and independents were the laggards, with 13.6 per cent fall year on year and 3.6 per cent growth when compared to the corresponding 12-week period in 2019, steepest fall and slowest growth respectively.

Having benefited from consumers shopping locally during the pandemic, Co-op’s market share also fell by 0.2 percentage points in the latest 12 weeks to 6.4 per cent.

The reduced availability of petrol saw shoppers limit the number of trips they made to the stores with the average household making 15.5 store visits in the past four weeks, the lowest monthly figure since February.

“Shoppers staying off the roads also meant the proportion of groceries bought online, which has been steadily decreasing over the past seven months, crept up to 12.4 per cent compared with 12.2 per cent in September,” commented Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar.

He added that consumers made the most of their time in store as trips where people spent over £100 were up by 6 per cent.

“A minority of very prepared shoppers also took the chance to get ahead on their festive spending as 449,000 eager consumers bought their Christmas pudding in September, with sales 76 per cent higher than in the same month last year. Sales of toys are also up by 5 per cent on last year while gift wrapping products grew by 10 per cent,” he noted.

“It’s important to say, however, that these are still relatively small numbers and anxiety around supply issues has not translated to panic buying – festive or otherwise.”

Like-for-like grocery prices rose by 1.7 per cent in the past four weeks compared with last year, which means that an average household had to spend an extra £5.94 on groceries last month than they did at the same time last year.

“The typical household spends £4,726 per year in the supermarkets, so any future price rises will quickly add up. Shoppers will look to manage their spend by carefully selecting the products and retailers that offer them the best value,” McKevitt commented.