British shoppers are heading out to grocery stores more often as the country’s Covid-19 vaccination programme gathers pace, industry data showed on Tuesday.
Market researcher Kantar said shoppers made 58 million more visits to the stores in the 12 weeks to May 16 than they did in the same period last year when Britain was in the grip of the first wave of the virus.
“As the vaccine rollout moves full steam ahead, consumers are getting more confident venturing back out to stores,” said Fraser McKevitt, Kantar’s head of retail and consumer insight.
As of Monday over 38 million Britons had received a first dose of a vaccination.
Kantar said there were also signs that the big weekly shop, which made a comeback last year when Britons tried to reduce the time spent outside of their homes, may be on its way out.
It said average basket size fell for the third month in a row to £22.82, the lowest since March last year.
The proportion of grocery sales made online, another hallmark of shopping habits last year, remained much higher than 2019 levels but fell back from 13.9 per cent in April to 13.4 per cent in the latest month.
Convenience stores, both independents and smaller formats of the major chains, are seeing some of their market share gains unwind too. Collectively these smaller stores now account for 12.5 per cent of sales, down from 14.9 per cent in May 2020.
Kantar said overall grocery sales fell 0.4 per cent year-on-year over the 12-week period, reflecting a tough comparison with exceptionally high sales during the first three months of the pandemic in 2020. Compared to the same period in 2019 sales were up 13.9 per cent.
“Many of us this time last year were eating all our meals at home and we bought extra food and drink as a result. Now we’re seeing take-home grocery sales dip versus 2020 as people are able to eat in restaurants, pubs and cafés and can pick up food on the go again,” said McKevitt.
Of Britain’s big four supermarket groups, Asda was the best performer with sales up 1.9 per cent year-on-year. Market leader Tesco’s sales were flat, while Sainsbury’s was up 0.7 per cent and Morrisons was up 0.3 per cent.
Kantar said grocery prices fell 1.2 per cent over the 12 week period, the fastest fall since August 2016.
Prices are rising fastest in segments such as chocolate confectionery, savoury snacks and canned colas while falling in bacon, toilet tissue and vegetables.