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Kantar: UK shoppers get back to pre-pandemic habits but inflation on the rise

Overall UK grocery sales have fallen in the last 3 months, as consumers start to get back to normal, the latest Kantar data has shown – but does slight inflation in the last four weeks herald more to come?

Portrait of an elderly smiling glad couple buying a beer at the grocery store

The latest data from the retail analysts showed grocery sales down by 4.0% in the 12 weeks to 8 August 2021 compared with the same period in 2020, however sales over the last four weeks have declined more slowly, down by only 0.5%.

“In monetary terms at least, we seem to be in a similar place to 12 months ago, but if we dig deeper into the data we can see that our shopping habits are actually very different,” Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar pointed out. 

One effect of the return to pre-pandemic habits is that since the end of restrictions, the UK consumer seems to be happier to return to the store, with around 108,000 additional trips to store last month. There has also been a slowdown in online sales, down to it’s lowest level since October last year, with just over 20% of households buying online in the last four months. Online’s share of the overall grocery market now stands at 13.0%, down from a peak of 15.4% in February, as the “unconverted… start to drop away,” preferring to get back in store instead, McKevitt said.

As a result, Ocado saw its first ever dip in sales, down 0.7%, although it still held on to 1.8% of market share – the same as last year – with sales still 44.4% higher than in 2019.

However, the acceleration of card sales over cash shows no signs of abating, with around 89% of all payments in the major grocers being made via card.

Waitrose was the only grocer to see sales rise in the last 12 weeks, up 0.6%, taking its market share to 4.9%, while Tesco saw its market share rise by 0.6 percentage points, it’s largest year-on-year share gain in nearly 15 years, bolstered by its premium own label, ‘Finest’.  Asda saw a 17% rise in the number of shopping trips, while Morrison’s share dipped, although it’s 6.2% fall in sales was largely due to a strong comparable.

Co-op and Iceland, two of the standout performers of the past 18 months, also saw sales down, with the market share now standing at 6.6% and 2.3% respectively.

There was also slight inflation growth in the last four weeks, up 0.4%, which McKevitt said would add around £19 to the average annual grocery bill.

“It’s expected that inflation will rise again in the coming months, and as a result we’ll likely see shoppers seeking to tighten the purse strings and save where they can,” Fraser McKevitt warned.


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