UK shoppers choose local grocers and online stores in Covid-19 crisis | Business

UK shoppers are continuing to turn to local shops and online grocers amid concerns about visiting supermarkets during the coronavirus pandemic.

One in five British households bought groceries online in the past month, pumping up sales for home delivery by 91%, while small independent stores rang up 69% more sales in the three months to 20 June, according to the latest market data from analysts Kantar.

Chains with stores on local high streets also did well, with Iceland and the Co-op both recording sales increases of more than 30%, taking the frozen food specialist to a 2.5% share of the market, its highest level since 2000.

The change in habits comes as only just over half of those questioned by Kantar said they felt safe when visiting a supermarket or a convenience store, prompting a clear shift towards shopping closer to home.

Separate research from analysts at Nielsen found a quarter of consumers saying they were visiting local stores than they did before the pandemic.

Fraser McKevitt at Kantar said shoppers were continuing to prefer big weekly or monthly shops so that they didn’t have to go out so often, but there were signs of a return to more normal shopping patterns.

“Households made 77m fewer trips to the grocers in the latest four weeks compared with last year, but that’s still 19m more than in May, reflecting the slight easing of government restrictions.”

The closure of pubs, restaurants and most coffee shops as well as the working from home trend meant an ongoing surge in grocery sales – up 13.7% year on year in the 12 weeks to 14 June.

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But McKevitt said the overall picture for grocery stores was less rosy, as the figures do not include sales of takeaway food, such as sandwiches and small bottles of drink, which slumped by a third in early June as a result of the shift towards home-working.

The weather also handed grocers with a boost. Mike Watkins, Nielsen’s UK head of retailer and business insight, said: “The sunny and warm weather helped sales over the hot bank holiday weekend at the end of May, with additional food and drink likely purchased for barbecues as ice-cream sales increased by 58%, alcohol by 31%, meat/fish/poultry by 18% and soft drinks up 11%.”

As pubs and restaurants slowly reopen, Nielsen predicts grocery sales will rise by between 5% and 10% over the next couple of months, with staycations providing a potential further boost to the market.

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