NEWS31 March 2020

Shoppers make 79m extra grocery trips

Covid-19 FMCG News Retail Trends UK

UK – Britons made more than 79m extra grocery shopping trips in the past four weeks, with total till sales at supermarkets rising  to 20.5%, according to Nielsen figures.

Shopping toilet paper_crop

The increase in sales was particularly pronounced in the week ending 21st March, which saw a 43% weekly growth in sales as shoppers have stockpiled amid the spread of Covid-19.

However Nielsen data suggests after the initial stockpiling, more normal levels of shopping are being reached – over the four week period ending 21st March, shoppers typically added just one extra item to their basket during each shopping trip.

This meant the average shopping basket increased from 10 to 11 items, and average basket spend rising from £15 to £16 during this same period. While these are small increases, shoppers made three additional shopping trips during this period – which in total equates to 79m more shopping trips than the same time last year.

This adds up to an extra £1.9bn spent on groceries. 

Shoppers initially focused on ‘stockpiling’ necessities, such as medicines for the family, cleaning supplies, household and pet care items and ambient groceries. But in the week ending 21st March, many shoppers then began to prepare for the ‘lockdown’ by filling their freezers as well. Sales of frozen food during this week rose by 84%1 compared to the same period last year.

This was also the week the government closed pubs and restaurants and subsequently beer, wine and spirits sales increased 67%.

Mike Watkins, Nielsen’s UK head of retailer and business insight, 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.

"As British shoppers become more accustomed to what the quarantine means for their daily lives, and restricted living becomes the new norm, we expect to see shopping behaviour evolve to become more local as shoppers are unable, or unwilling, to travel further than is necessary for immediate needs such as fresh foods. In any case, the increased base level of sales that we’ve seen over the last several weeks won't suddenly evaporate, growths won’t suddenly plummet to the levels we saw back in January and February before the crisis took hold."