Ocado sees first sales dip as shoppers continue return to pre-pandemic habits

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Ocado Group PLC (LSE:OCDO) (LSE:OCDO) saw its first sales decline on record as UK shoppers are shifting away from online and are going back to the shops.


The FTSE 100 grocer dipped 0.7% during the four weeks to 8 August, according to the latest Kantar data, though it was compared to a strong expansion last year.


READ: Ocado share price ‘excessively high’, says Barclays


Nonetheless, it has retained 1.8% of total grocery sales, the same as last year, and sales are up by 44.4% compared with 2019, the fastest two-year growth in the market.


“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,” said Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar.


“But the unconverted are starting to drop away, preferring to get back to store instead. Just over 20% of the population bought groceries online in the latest four weeks, the lowest level we’ve seen since October last year, while the share of grocery sales made online now stands at 13.0%, down from a peak of 15.4% in February.”


Looking at the wider grocery sector, sales were down 4% in the last month, although they are up by a tenth compared to 2019 levels.


“Our shopping habits are actually very different. 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% smaller,” McKevitt commented.


Waitrose was the only supermarket posting a sales increase, up 0.6%, with Co-op falling as much as 10.5% and Iceland down 8.7%.


Like-for-like grocery prices have been falling since April this year and the trend continued over this 12-week period as they dropped by 0.8%.


However, inflation was up by 0.4% in the four weeks just ended, which corresponds to an extra GBP19 to the average household’s annual grocery bill.


Inflation is expected to continue rising, so consumers’ basket sizes are likely to shrink.


Shares in Ocado were up 1% to 1,814p on Tuesday morning.

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