British grocery sales soar 15% on lockdown boost

FILE PHOTO: Shoppers wearing face masks at a market in Cambridge
·2 min read

LONDON (Reuters) - British grocery sales soared 15.1% year-on-year in the four weeks to Feb. 21, the fastest growth since June 2020, as the latest national lockdown curtailed spending in cafes, restaurants and bars, market researcher Kantar said on Tuesday.

England entered a third national lockdown on Jan. 4 to contain a surge in COVID-19 cases that threatened to overwhelm the health system. Rules in England mean schools are closed to most pupils, people should work from home if possible, and all hospitality and nonessential shops are closed. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland imposed similar measures.

Last week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a road map out of lockdown in which outdoor-only service in restaurants and bars will not return until April 12 at the earliest.

The pandemic has been changing the way Britons shop for a full year. Overall, shoppers have spent 15.2 billion pounds ($21.2 billion) more on groceries during the crisis, said Kantar.

“We’ve eaten an extra 7 billion meals at home since spring 2020. Office tea rounds meanwhile were replaced by brews in our own kitchens and we drank an additional 2 billion cups of tea in the house this year,” said Fraser McKevitt, Kantar's head of retail and consumer insight.

Online grocery sales reached a new record share in the four weeks to Feb. 21, accounting for 15.4% of sales, up from 8.7% last year. Kantar said Morrisons, Britain’s fourth-biggest grocer, was again the best performer of the major groups with sales up 13.9% year-on-year over the 12 weeks to Feb. 21.

Market leader Tesco’s sales rose 13.2% and it gained market share for the first time since 2016.

Sales at No. 2 Sainsbury and No. 3 Asda rose 12.1% and 10.3%, respectively. Kantar said grocery inflation was 1.2% over the 12 weeks. It said prices are rising fastest in markets such as colas and chilled fruit juices, while falling in vegetables, bacon and beef.

(Reporting by James Davey in London; Editing by Matthew Lewis)