Supermarket trips dip as motorists conserve petrol, but online sales edge higher

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Grocery sales from supermarket outlets fell by 1.2% in the last three months as motorists mindful of the fuel shortage made fewer trips to buy food.


But the latest figures from research group Kantar showed that in the 12 weeks to 3 October online sales, which had been falling steadily for seven months, edged up again.


Despite the dip in take home sales, the overall figure remained 8.1% higher than it was before COVID-19 and every retailer boosted its sales compared with the same period in 2019.


Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar, said: “Queues outside petrol stations made headlines last month and visits to forecourts in the south of England increased by 66% on Friday 24 September as people topped up their tanks ahead of the weekend.


“The reduced availability of petrol saw shoppers limit the number of trips they made to supermarkets. The average household made 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% compared with 12.2% in September.


“Consumers made the most of their time in store once they did make it to the shop, and trips where people spent over GBP100 were up by 6%.


“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% higher than in the same month last year. Sales of toys are also up by 5% on last year while gift wrapping products grew by 10%.”


Like-for-like grocery prices rose by 1.7% in the past four weeks compared with last year, adding yet more evidence of the pricing pressures hitting the economy.


The resilience in the supermarket sector has seen interest from private equity interest, with Morrison already falling to a bid and others regularly put in the frame.


Tesco continued to grow ahead of the market with sales up by 1.2% in the 12 weeks to 3 October compared with the same period last year. Tesco’s market share increased by 0.6 percentage points and now stands at 27.5%, the highest level since February 2019.


Lidl was the only other retailer to achieve growth in the past 12 weeks, increasing sales by 0.4% to give it a market share of 6.2% – matching its previous record high in May 2021. Waitrose’s sales remained flat, but this was enough for it to gain market share, nudging up 0.1 percentage points to 5.1%.


Market share was unmoved at both Sainsbury’s and Asda, sitting at 14.9% and 14.4% respectively. Aldi and Iceland also remained steady. Aldi holds 8.0% of sales and Iceland has 2.3%. As Morrisons’ ownership auction was settled, the retailer’s market share slipped slightly from 10.1% to 9.8% in the latest 12 weeks.


Consumer behaviour continues to creep back to pre-pandemic habits and retailers that made significant gains last year are beginning to return to normal. Having benefited from consumers shopping locally during the pandemic, Co-op’s share fell by 0.2 percentage points in the latest 12 weeks to 6.4%. Ocado sales shrank by 5.9% this period, but the online specialist still showed the greatest two-year increase of any retailer, with sales 35.9% higher than in 2019.

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