Take-home grocery sales in the UK rose 5.7% in the 12 weeks to 18 April, new data from Kantar has shown, with the research firm noting that consumer confidence appears to be increasing amidst a relaxation of social restrictions.
“There is a growing sense that the worst of the pandemic is behind us, and people are becoming more comfortable with venturing out to the supermarket," commented Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar.
"The past four weeks have been the busiest in store for the grocers in more than a year, as the number of trips made in April increased by 4% compared to March."
Despite tough comparatives with last year, most of the major UK grocers saw sales up in the 12-week period.
The 'Big Four'
Market leader Tesco (27.0% market share) saw sales up 6.4%, while second-placed Sainsbury's (15.3% share) was up 6.0%.
Of the so-called 'Big Four', Asda (14.8% share) saw the biggest sales growth, of 8.0%, while Morrisons (10.0% share) saw its sales rise by 7.2%.
'Asda is the fastest growing of the big four retailers for the first time in nearly two and a half years,' Kantar said. 'Its larger stores were visited less often by shoppers looking to stay local in the early days of the pandemic, but footfall has now returned strongly.'
Across the wider industry, the most pronounced sales growth was seen at Ocado (1.8% market share), which saw its sales rise by more than a quarter (27.5%).
The Co-op (6.2% share) was the only retailer to report a dip in sales in the period, of 3.1% – its network of largely convenience stores was less busy than during this period a year ago, when many consumers were restricted to their local areas.
'Co-op, the most prominent convenience retailer, saw sales decrease annually by 3.1% over the 12 weeks, following its particularly strong performance this time in 2020,' said Kantar'. 'In comparison with a more normal 2019 however, sales are up a formidable 16.2%. It’s a similar story for independent stores and symbol retailers, with year-on-year decline of 13.3% masking the fact that sales are considerably higher than two years ago.'
The loosening of COVID-related restrictions is having an impact on some categories, however, with sales of alcohol growing by just 1% in the last four weeks – however take-home sales of sparkling wine increased by 48%.
In addition, the number of people shopping online over the past moth fell for the second time in a row, Kantar added.
“The share of groceries ordered via the internet in the most recent four weeks slipped to 13.9%, down from a peak of 15.4% in February," said McKevitt. "While online is still growing strongly, at 46%, the rate is half what it was at the height of the pandemic."