Grocery sales slide as customers retreat from online shopping

UK grocery sales have tumbled by 4% over the past three months as shoppers continue to steadily return to pre-pandemic habits, according to new figures.

Data firm Kantar found that sales declined for the 12-week period to August 8, against the same period in 2020, although the decline slowed down to 0.5% for the last four weeks of the quarter.

It also reported that the proportion of grocery sales taking place online shrank further as shoppers made more trips to stores.

Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar, said: “In monetary terms at least, we seem to be in a similar place to 12 months ago, but if we dig deeper into the data we can see that our shopping habits are actually very different.

“With the end of social distancing restrictions, people have been happier to head into stores to make more regular, smaller shops.

“Consumers made an extra 108,000 shopping trips this month, while average basket sizes were 10% smaller.”

The figures also revealed that Waitrose was the only major UK grocery retailer to deliver sales growth over the 12-week period, with a 0.6% rise in activity.

Elsewhere, Morrisons saw the largest decline of the big four supermarket giants, with a slump of 6.2% for the quarter against the same period last year.

Asda sales dropped by 4.7%, while Sainsbury’s reported a 2.6% decline in total sales, Kantar said.

Meanwhile, Tesco was among the more resilient of retailers, with a 1.8% decline, which allowed it to improve its market share.

Ocado also reported its first decline on record, with sales dropping 0.7%, as it appeared to be impacted by the reduced demand from online shopping.

“Ocado’s growth is now comparing against the rapid expansion it enjoyed in 2020 so it’s not altogether surprising that we’re now seeing a small dip,” Mr McKevitt said.

“It’s still a positive outlook for the online specialist though.

“Ocado has retained 1.8% of total grocery sales, the same as last year, and sales are up by 44.4% compared with 2019, the fastest two-year growth in the market.”

The latest industry figures also revealed that shop prices increased by 0.4% over the past four weeks following a lengthy period of grocery deflation.