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Supermarket sees booze sales rise 22% following on-trade closures

Sales of alcohol rose 22% in the last month, the latest Kantar data has shown, slightly ahead of main grocery growth, worth an additional £199 million in the past month as the supermarkets recorded their biggest month on record.

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Speaking to the drinks business this morning Kantar’s head of retail and consumer insight Fraser McKevitt said the 22% boost to alcohol sales was higher than that of the average grocery sales for the month of 20.6%, showing that people were stocking up in preparatiion for the lockdown and for pubs and clubs being closed.

Drilling into the figures, he said wine, spirits and beers had all enjoyed growth, but beyond these big categories, there was some interesting nuances.

Flavour alcoholic beverages were the fastest growing sub-category, with sales up 42%, he said, pointing out that these were “an inherently on-trade type of drink” and the move was largely driven by the closure of bars and pubs and people not be able to drink them out of the home.

Non-alcoholic beer sales were also up, although he argued that sales could have been even higher if they had accelerated in the same wasy as the flavoured alcoholic beverages category. “People looking for [non]alcoholic beer to replace their trip to the pub,” he said.

“Finally, sparkling wine  is up 15%, which is behind the overall market. This talks to its association to the good times, so yes people buying more but it’s not the drink people turn to as they did say before Christmas. It is still up 15% for March, so it’s not a negative story, but just not as much as the others.

The figures revealed that around 88% of British households visited a supermarket in the four days following the government’s introduction of social distancing measures on Monday 16th amounting to aound 42 additional trips, boosting market growth to 7.6%.

Growth drivers

Growth was driven largely by more frequent shopping and people spending a bit more per visit rather than the traditional view of stockpiling, with the average household spending an extra £62.92 in the four weeks.

Year-on-year supermarket sales in the last 12 weeks grew by the fastest rate in over a decade, it said, up 7.6%, driven by the record-breaking March, which saw a staggering 20.6% growth – or an additional £10.8 billion spent during the past four weeks. In London, which was the first place in the UK to be hit with the outbreak saw consumers increase spend the most, up by 26% during the month.  

McKevitt said it had been an “extraordinary month”, pointing out that the shopping levels were even higher than those seen at Christmas, which is usuall the busiest time of year.

“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,” he said.

“It’s inevitable that shoppers will add extra items to their baskets when faced with restrictions on their movement and possible isolation if one of them becomes unwell, but many families are also adjusting to having more mouths to feed.”

Around 503 million meals are likely to be eaten at home now that restaurants and cafes are closed and more people work from home, he pointed out.

Shopping local

As well as influencing people’s shopping spend, the widespread restrictions on movemement have also provided a boost to convenience stores, independents and symbols stores, the data revealed. Convenience stores saw a boost in sales, while smaller branches of the big grocers and independents saw their collective market share rise from 13% to 30% year-on-year.

Online spend also rose, up 13%, with shoppers spending an average of £6 more, to £81.88  – but McKevitt noted that the difficulty in obtaining delivery slots meant that the relatively small increase of households receiving online delivery in the past four weeks – 14.6% up from 13.8% the same period last year – was probably “well below actual demand”.

However most consumers were still relying on full-size supermarkets, with the main multiples, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrisons, Waitrose, Aldi and Lidl taking a 76% of spend in the past four weeks, up 19% from March 2019. The total multiples saw growth of 7.6%, with other multiples up 13.7% and independent symbol groups up 16.7.%.

McKevitt said it was unlikely that incredibly high levels of shopping trips made in March would continued and would drop off over the coming weeks, although regular trips to smaller local stores would  continue, as people avoid travelling and store queues.

“While much-reported panic buying has been concentrated to a relatively low number of individuals so far, we anticipate that this too will subside as consumers gain confidence in the retailers’ abilities to maintain grocery supplies and keep stock on the shelves,” he said.

Lidl saw the most growth, up 17.6%, followed by Aldi at 11%, while online retailer Ocado saw a 12.5% boost, with Iceland up 11%. Of the big four, Sainsbury’s saw the biggest sales boost, up 7.4%,

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