Shoppers returning to supermarkets more regularly despite new mask rules

Shoppers are returning to supermarkets and grocers more regularly than at the height of the pandemic but are spending less on each trip, according to new data.

Morrisons was the biggest winner among the Big Four – alongside Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda – in the 12 weeks to August 9. Asda saw the biggest fall in share of customers, according to Kantar.

Customers spent £9.7 billion over the past four weeks, the lowest level since February, although this is higher than pre-pandemic levels with restaurants and the hospitality sector remaining significantly subdued.

But shopping trends are shifting towards healthier options, with sales of vitamins and minerals up 34%, herbal teas up by 19%, and nuts up 21%, although this was offset by alcohol sales rising 28.3% over the past four weeks.

Charlotte Scott, consumer insight director at Kantar, said: “The relaxing of rules across much of the country means shoppers are less inclined to stock up their cupboards with regular large trips. That has seen average spend drop below £25 for the first time since March. However, at £24, it is still a world away from the pre-Covid average of £19 per trip.”

She said the current average of 14 shopping trips per month per household is lower than it was last month but still up on April and May.

Ms Scott added: “The number of supermarket trips was two million lower than would have usually been expected in the week after the rule was adopted, and currently just over half of shoppers say they feel safe in stores.

“That suggests the public may need time to adjust to the new regulations, and they now have to plan ahead for every shopping trip.”

Online food shopping hit another new record in the four weeks to August 9, with 13.5% of all sales now ordered online, Kantar said.

Ocado has been the biggest winner with growth of 45.5% over the 12-week period, although it still only accounts for 1.8% of the entire grocery sector.

Ms Scott added: “With the country officially entering recession last week, atypical behaviours are likely to continue. During a recession we would generally expect shoppers to manage their spend more carefully.

“Early evidence suggests that most are not yet choosing to trade down, with brands and premium own-label lines currently performing well; however, price cuts have increased compared with July as some people look for opportunities to save.”

She also suggested the exclusion of alcohol from the Government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme, to encourage consumers back into restaurants, helped keep in-store sales up during the period.

Morrisons was the fastest-growing Big Four retailer, with sales up 16.0%, driven by a particularly strong performance from its supermarket stores – accounting for 10.2% of the market.

Tesco’s market share fell 0.4 percentage points to 26.6%, Sainsbury’s share was 14.9%, down 0.5 percentage points this month, and Asda lost 0.6 percentage points, taking it to 14.3%, according to Kantar.

Elsewhere, Iceland was the second fastest-growing retailer at 29.2%, with its share increasing to 2.4%.

Co-op increased its share to 7.1%, with growth of 22.4%. Lidl remained steady at 5.9%, while Aldi and Waitrose both lost 0.2 percentage points, taking them to 7.9% and 4.7% respectively.