Supermarkets enjoy best ever month amid lockdown 2.0

The UK grocery market saw its best ever month of sales in November as the second lockdown forced the closure of pubs and restaurants across England, according to new figures.

The latest data from Kantar showed Britons spent £10.9 billion in store and online at grocery shops last month, with take-home sales up 13.9% as eating and drinking out of home was restricted by the lockdown.

Kantar said shopping visits to stores hit its highest level since the beginning of the pandemic in November in a sign of increasing confidence among consumers to go into shops.

Internet shopping also reached another record high, with more than six million households buying their groceries online and digital platforms accounting for 13.7% of all sales.

The figures revealed that grocery sales soared 17% in the three days before the second English lockdown, when non-essential shops were forced to close, alongside pubs, cafes and restaurants, except to offer takeaways.

Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar, said: “Those factors contributed to November being the single largest month ever for the supermarkets.”

He added that December is also set to smash November’s records.

“We expect spend to be close to £12 billion in the month ahead, around £1.5 billion more than last year,” he said.

The data revealed that overall UK grocery sales rose 11.3% to £30.8 billion over the 12 weeks to November 29 – the best performance since August.

Sales of festive products ramped, with households spending 238% more on Christmas lights as they decorated their homes early and sales of turkeys up 36% on last year.

The early Christmas festivities, alongside limited opportunities to drink in pubs and restaurants, sent spending on alcohol up 33% higher year-on-year in November, Kantar said.

“Many people have begun the countdown to Christmas 2020 already, using more time at home to go big on festive revelry,” said Mr McKevitt.

Among the Big Four supermarkets, Morrisons was the top performer with sales up 13.7% over the past 12 weeks and its market share increasing from 10.1% to 10.3%.

Sainsbury’s, which owns Argos, saw its sales leap 10.8% and held its 15.7% market share steady, while Tesco and Asda’s market share slipped despite rising sales, at 27% and 14.1% respectively.

The figures showed Ocado enjoyed the highest sales growth, up 38.3% in the 12 weeks and its market share increasing from 1.4% to 1.7%, helped by its deal to start selling Marks & Spencer products.

Iceland enjoyed 21% sales growth thanks to increasing popularity for freezer goods during the pandemic, while Waitrose also notched up its fastest rate of growth since 2005, at 13.2%.