Coronavirus leads to record month of retail sales

Supermarket sales grew by the fastest rate in over a decade, 7.6%. during the past 12 weeks, as coronavirus caused massive changes in consumer behaviour.

The latest grocery market share figures from Kantar show the rate of growth in the most recent four weeks was nearly three times higher, year-on-year, at 20.6%. March is the biggest month of grocery sales ever recorded.

Week-on-week sales strengthened at the beginning of the month. Between Monday March 16 and Thursday March 19, in anticipation of potential lock down, 88% of households visited a grocer, making five trips on average – adding up to 42 million extra shopping trips across four days.

The average household spent an extra £62.92 during the four weeks period equivalent to adding five days worth of groceries. Shoppers in London, where the outbreak is reported to be a few weeks ahead of other regions, increased their spending the most, up by 26% during the month.

Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar, said that while the majority of panic buying was carried out by a ‘relatively low number of individuals’, he anticipates this will subside as shoppers gain confidence in the strength of the supply chain.

He said: “It has been an extraordinary month and social distancing measures have had a profound impact on all our daily lives – from the way we work and socialise, to how we shop and care for our loved ones.

“We expect restrictions on movement and relatively full grocery cupboards will mean the incredibly high levels of shopping trips made in March will drop off over the coming weeks.

“Regular trips to smaller local stores are likely to continue, as people avoid travelling and queues at stores with one-in-one-out policies in place. Sales of long life and non-perishable items will slow as households work their way through stocks and consumers will focus on replenishing their supply of fresh foods.

“With restaurants and cafés now closed, none of us can eat meals on the go any longer and an extra 503 million meals, mainly lunches and snacks, will be prepared and eaten at home every week for the foreseeable future.

“Those already missing their favourite haunts have been stocking up to recreate trips to the pub with friends over apps like Houseparty and FaceTime – boosting alcohol sales by 22%, an additional £199 million in the past month. Purchasing of food and drink items for store cupboards rose by 28% during the past four weeks and by the same again for frozen goods.”

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Editor of LBM titles Pig World and Farm Business and group editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer. National Pig Association's webmaster. Previously political editor at Farmers Guardian for many years and also worked Farmers Weekly. Occasional farming media pundit. Brought up on a Leicestershire farm, now work from a shed in the garden in Oxfordshire. Big fan of Leicester City and Leicester Tigers. Occasional cricketer.