Smaller but more frequent trips as grocery shoppers return to pre-pandemic habits

A lorry driver for Arla Foods, a dairy products company makes a milk delivery to a Tesco supermarket in London on August 3, 2021. (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)

In the four weeks to 8 August, grocery shoppers made an additional 108,000 trips to store as they steadily return to pre-pandemic shopping habits of making smaller but more frequent trips, latest Kantar figures show.

The period also marked the best four week ending market performance since April, with sales declined just 0.5 per cent than the corresponding period last year. For the 12 weeks to 8 August, sales fell by 4 per cent year on year.

“In monetary terms at least, we seem to be in a similar place to 12 months ago, but if we dig deeper into the data we can see that our shopping habits are actually very different,” Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar, commented.

“With the end of social distancing restrictions people have been happier to head into stores to make more regular, smaller shops. Consumers made an extra 108,000 shopping trips this month, while average basket sizes were 10 per cent smaller.”

Covid-19 is still having an impact on people’s spending as grocery sales remain 9.9 per cent higher in the latest 12 weeks than in 2019.

This is apparent in the case of symbols and independents which have seen the largest year on year decline of 22.3 per cent, but a strong growth of 12.9 per cent from the comparable period in 2019.

Co-op and Iceland, two other major beneficiaries of the pandemic pivots to convenience stores and frozen food last year, showed similar trend, with year on year declines of 10.5 per cent and 8.7 per cent respectively, and growth of 9.6 per cent and 18 per cent versus two years ago.

On the online front, Ocado almost maintained its sales from last year with just 0.7 per cent decline in the 12-week period, its first decline on record, but its growth from 2019 is an astonishing 44 per cent, leading it to retain a market share now at par with symbol and independents, at 1.8 per cent.

However, the gradual return to more traditional behaviour is affecting online grocery sales, McKevitt says.

“Take up of online grocery shopping grew rapidly during the pandemic, but as lockdown restrictions have loosened a divide is beginning to emerge. Those who have come to love the convenience of an online shop are sticking with it, ordering regularly and spending on average more than two-thirds of their total grocery bill online.  But the unconverted are starting to drop away, preferring to get back to store instead,” he said.

Just over 20 per cent of the population bought groceries online in the latest four weeks, the lowest level since October last year, and the share of grocery sales made online now stands at 13 per cent, down from a peak of 15.4 per cent in February.