Britons made 80m extra grocery shops in less than a month

Britons made nearly 80m extra grocery shopping trips in the last four weeks than over the same period last year – spending nearly £2bn more on food and drink – as they rushed to stockpile amid fears about coronavirus.

New data published today by market analysts Nielsen shows that total till sales at the UK’s supermarkets surged 20.5% during the key four-week period from 24 February to 21 March.

The leap in sales was particularly marked in the week ending 21 March – soaring by 43% – and before supermarkets and retailers raced to introduce measures such as restricting shopper numbers to ensure “physical distancing”.

Shoppers each made three additional shopping trips during this period, which equates to 79m more shopping trips than the same time last year, and an extra £1.9bn spent on groceries.

In the week ending 21 March, many shoppers had already stocked up their store cupboards and pantries with essentials, and begun to prepare for the expected lockdown – announced the following week – by filling their freezers as well.

Sales of frozen food during this week rose by 84% compared to the same period last year. This was also the week in which the government announced the closure of pubs and restaurants, resulting in a 67% surge in beer, wine and spirits sales.

Online grocery sales – which usually make up just 7% of the UK’s £200bn grocery market – picked up sharply, with two in every 10 households placing an online order, equal to an additional 1.2m online grocery orders over the four weeks.

Mike Watkins, UK head of retailer and business insight at Nielsen, said:“With households making almost three extra shopping trips in the last four weeks, this small change in individual shopping behaviour has led to a seismic shift in overall shopping patterns.

“As well as increased store visits, consumers opted to shop online – many for the first time. However, unlike stores there is a finite capacity for online grocery shopping, due to warehouse capacity and available delivery slots, and this will have limited the growth of online sales.”

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