Online grocery sales reach record levels although overall spend slows

Online reached 13.5% as a proportion of all grocery sales in the four weeks to 9 August, which is a new record, according to the latest figures released today by Kantar.

This is likely to be caused by a continued reluctance to visit public places amid the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, with Kantar finding that just over half of consumers feel safe to shop in-store, despite the introduction of mandatory face coverings last month.

Overall grocery sales slowed in the 12 weeks to 9 August, to a 14.4% year-on-year growth. And the £9.7 million spent in grocery over the last four weeks of the period was at its lowest level since February, although this was “still considerably higher than pre-pandemic levels”.

Charlotte Scott, consumer insight director at Kantar, explained: “With the country officially entering recession last week, atypical behaviours are likely to continue. During a recession we would generally expect shoppers to manage their spend more carefully. Early evidence suggests that most are not yet choosing to trade down, with brands and premium own label lines currently performing well, however price cuts have increased compared with July as some people look for opportunities to save.” 

A similar trend was seen in data published by Nielsen, which also highlighted the continued shift to online shopping for groceries during the Covid-19 pandemic. It found that fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) spend in supermarkets went up by £678 million compared to last year, with online sales accounting for 97% of this growth.

Nielsen also found that UK online grocery sales increased 117% year-on-year over the four weeks, while in-store sales grew by just 0.3%.

Mike Watkins, Nielsen’s UK head of retailer and business insight, said: “The shift to online grocery shopping, which looks set to stay, is the most dramatic change of shopping behaviour we’ve ever seen. Though it has clearly been a positive game-changer for shoppers and some retailers, it has come at the expense of stores - something that we have already seen in non-food retailing."