Supermarket sales continue to fall compared with a year ago – at the height of the pandemic – as the end of lockdown restrictions see shopping habits return to normality, according to new data.
Kantar said sales fell 1.9% during the 12 weeks to September 5 compared with a year ago, although they remain 8.7% higher than pre-Covid levels.
Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar, said: “There are big lifestyle changes on the horizon with commuters heading back to the office and the return to school this autumn, and we’d expect this to impact how people shop.
“In the first week of September we measured the highest supermarket footfall all year outside of the Easter period with more people out and about picking up items as they go.
“That suggests a hint of change, and could see shoppers shun the ‘big shop’ in favour of more frequent top-up buying.
“But we shouldn’t expect to shift from habits learned in lockdown straight back to pre-Covid patterns overnight. It’s most likely that the needle will settle somewhere in between.”
He also revealed home cooking is starting to wane, with an 11% rise in ready meal sales this month, and expects spending in cafes and coffee shops to increase as more workers return to offices.
Online grocery shopping also continues to fall since lockdown restrictions eased, down from 13% of the market four weeks ago to 12.2% this month.
The average basket size was also down for online nearly £17 compared with the peak at the start of the pandemic at £78.28.
Inflation is also starting to impact the sector, with grocery prices up 1.3% in the past four weeks compared with a year ago.
Mr McKevitt said: “For much of 2021 shoppers have been shielded from price increases, with more being sold on promotion this year compared to 2020.
“But in the past month only 27.5% of spending was done on deals.
“Other than the early days of lockdown last year, that is the lowest level recorded in the 15 years which we have tracked this data, with retailers aiming to offer everyday low prices instead.”
Prices are rising fastest for savoury snacks, cat food and ambient cakes and pastries while falling in fresh bacon, vegetables and ambient cooking sauces.
Co-op and Morrisons were the worst-performing supermarkets, with sales down 5.6% and 4.9% respectively in the 12 weeks to September 5 compared with a year earlier.
Only Waitrose and Tesco saw sales rise, up 2.2% and 0.2% respectively.