Vaccine rollout boosts shopper confidence

The appeal of the big weekly shop seems to be fading, with UK shoppers going to the supermarket more frequently and spending less on each trip.

New figures from data company Kantar show that, as the Covid-19 vaccine rollout continues, consumers are becoming more confident venturing back out to stores. Shoppers made 58 million more visits to the supermarket in the most recent four weeks than they did in May 2020.

Meanwhile, basket sizes have fallen for three months in a row and the average price of a trip to the grocery store is now £22.82. This is the lowest since March last year when consumers began stocking up — and limiting their trips to the shops — at the start of the pandemic.

Overall take-home grocery sales for the 12 weeks to 16 May were down 0.4% year-on-year to £31.3bn. This decline reflects a tough comparison with exceptionally high sales during the first three months of the pandemic last year, Kantar pointed out. It may also be a sign that people are starting to make use of the eased restrictions on travel and eating out, with outdoor dining and hospitality allowed from the middle of April.

“As lockdown eases, people are returning to more normal habits and we can see that reflected in grocery sales,” said Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar. “Many of us this time last year were eating all our meals at home and we bought extra food and drink as a result. Now we’re seeing take-home grocery sales dip versus 2020 as people are able to eat in restaurants, pubs and cafés and can pick up food on the go again, grabbing a sandwich, for example, while they’re out and about at the weekend.”

Grocery sales remain higher than before coronavirus, however: compared with the same period in 2019, shoppers spent an additional £3.8bn at the supermarket in the past three months.