Largest month ever for grocery market with £10.9 billion spent in November

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A customer browses some of the festive items in the Christmas gift and decoration section in the branch of retailer Marks and Spencer at Westfield White City on October 20, 2020 in London, England. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Grocery retailers have enjoyed their the single largest month ever in November, with £10.9 billion spent in store and online over four weeks, according to the latest figures from Kantar.

Take-home grocery sales rose by 11.3 per cent during the 12 weeks to 29 November, the fastest rate of growth since August. In the last four weeks, the figure rose to 13.9 per cent as the English national lockdown hit the eating out market.

“The three days before non-essential retail and hospitality closed on 5 November were especially busy, with grocery sales that week up by 17 per cent,” commented Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar.

“November as a whole saw shopper frequency hit its highest level since the beginning of the pandemic, suggesting more confidence among people going into stores.”

McKevitt added that the trend is set to continue into December, with Kantar forecasting spending to be close to £12 billion, around £1.5 billion more than last year.

Symbols and independents continued their strong performance, registering 17 per cent growth in the 12 weeks to 29 November, only behind Ocado (38.3%) and Iceland (21%).

November has also seen more than six million households shopping at a grocer online this month – the highest ever – with digital platforms accounting for 13.7 per cent of all sales – also a record.

A separate Kantar survey has shown that shoppers are determined to make this the best Christmas ever after a tough 2020.

While 42 per cent of Britons said they are pushing to make this the best Christmas in memory, over a third are planning to put up Christmas lights early because of the pandemic.

“Many people have begun the countdown to Christmas 2020 already, using more time at home to go big on festive revelry,” McKevitt said.

“Sales of turkeys, both whole birds and ready-to-roast joints, are up by 36 per cent on last year, while more than £11 million was spent on Christmas puddings.

“Shoppers spent 238 per cent more on Christmas lights in the month to 15 November, suggesting that people are eager to capture the Christmas spirit at home.  However, mince pie sales are down by 8 per cent, reflecting fewer opportunities to share a treat with friends and colleagues.”

Alcohol spend has been 33 per cent higher than in the same four weeks last year. Two-fifths of that growth came from spirits, with sales of cream liqueurs more than doubling compared with 2019.