UK supermarket growth slows, but BWS sales still lead the way

Supermarket growth has slowed in the last month as the off-trade recovers, according to the latest data  – but BWS still leads the FMCG category, according to Nielsen.

According to Nielsen’s total till data from the 4 weeks to 5 September, BWS proved to be the strongest category in the UK supermarkets, growing 15%, boosted by champagne sales up 24% and sparkling wines up 17%, compard to wider FMCG sales which continued to level out at +5.3% in the four weeks ending 5th September 2020.

The analysts said supermarket growth was “stablising” after the pandemic accelerated growth, at +5.3% year-on-year over the four week period, but argued that online growth was here to stay, with online fmcg sales up 102%.

“Nielsen data also shows that in the last 12 weeks ending 5th September, supermarkets experienced 10% more online shopping ‘trips’ than in the 12 weeks leading to early June 2020, when lockdown was lifted. Which means, online shopping is sticking and those shoppers are shopping more often, driving growth in the channel, reveals new data released today.”

There was a knockon effect on bricks and mortar sales, Mike Watkins, Nielsen’s UK Head of Retailer and Business Insight, said, which fell by around 1.6%, who added that “while there are still shoppers trying online for the first time, the growth of online is now being driven by bigger spends and more transactions.”


Data from Kantar showed a broadly similiar picture, noting that although take-home grocery sales were in their fifth consecutive month of growth, sales slowed to 8% in August, down from 10.8% in last 12 weeks to 6 September. UK shoppers also spent £155million less in supermarkets following the launch of the government’s Eat Out to Help Out Scheme and the end of shielding for many vulnerable people.

It reported that online grocery sales growth also slowed to around 77%, marking the second month this has fallen, although as Kantar’s head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar Fraser McKevitt pointed out, growth was “still impressive”.

“It has slowed for the second month in a row and dropped back to 12.5% of total sales this month from a peak of 13.5%.  This is not just about people going out to eat in restaurants, August also brought shielding to an end for many vulnerable and at-risk people,” he said.

McKevitt also pointed to rising consumer confidence and footfall throughout August, culminating in a strong bank holiday Monday at the end of the month, when dining out accounted for a two and a half times greater share of consumer spend than the pre-Covid average.

Promotional activity was also back to its highest level since February 2020, Kantar noted, focusing mainly on straightforward price cuts.

According to Kantar, alcohol sales dipped month-on-month, with wine sales down 5% and beer down 10%, as the lifted restrictions and Eat out to Help out scheme encouraged people “to swap Zoom catch ups for their favourite bars and restaurants”.

The latest stats also showed the continuing strenght of the convenience market, with Kantar highlighting particularly strong sales for The Co-op of 13.4% overall, rising at twice that rate in the North of England, where local lockdown measures have been implemented, while symbols and independent retailers saw sales rise of 31%.


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