Online grocery shopping falls as consumers return to stores

Shoppers are returning to stores as the Covid-19 pandemic recedes, with just 20 per cent of households buying groceries online in the latest four weeks, the lowest level since October last year.

Shoppers are returning to stores as the Covid-19 pandemic recedes

Market researcher Kantar said online grocery sales made up just 13 per cent of the total grocery spend, down from a peak of 15.4 per cent in February.Take-up of online grocery shopping grew rapidly during the Covid-19 pandemic, but as lockdown restrictions have loosened a divide is beginning to emerge.

Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar, said: “Take up of online grocery shopping grew rapidly during the pandemic, but as lockdown restrictions have loosened a divide is beginning to emerge.

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"Those who have come to love the convenience of an online shop are sticking with it, ordering regularly and spending on average more than two thirds of their total grocery bill online.

"But the unconverted are starting to drop away, preferring to get back to store instead. Just over 20 per cent of the population bought groceries online in the latest four weeks, the lowest level we’ve seen since October last year, while the share of grocery sales made online now stands at 13.0 per cent, down from a peak of 15.4 per cent in February.”

Market leader Tesco was the best performer of Britain's big four grocers, with sales down 1.8 per cent in the 12 weeks to August 8.

Sainsbury's, Asda's and Morrisons' sales fell 2.6 per cent, 4.7 per cent and 6.2 per cent, respectively.

Mr McKevitt said that Bradford-based Morrisons is annualising against a strong performance last year when the firm saw sales leap 16 per cent. Two year growth figures are 9 per cent ahead so Mr McKevitt said there was little to be concerned about.

Leeds-based Asda saw a 17 per cent jump in the number of shopping trips compared with last year and it now has a 14.2 per cent share of UK grocery sales. Mr McKevitt said Asda has seen an extra 20 million shopping trips through its doors.

Total UK grocery sales were down 4 per cent over the 12 week period year-on-year and down 0.5 per cent over the latter four weeks, reflecting strong growth in last year's lockdowns.

Grocery sales were 9.9 per cent higher in the latest 12 week period compared with the same period in 2019, before the pandemic started to hit trade.

Kantar said consumers made an extra 108,000 shopping trips in the latest four week period versus last year, while average basket sizes were 10 per cent smaller.

“Although relatively low, this four-week level of inflation would still add £19 to the average household’s annual grocery bill," said Mr McKevitt.

"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."