UK grocery sales return to growth as 20 per cent of Brits set to spend more over Jubilee bank holiday weekend

Total Till UK grocery sales rebounded to +0.6 per cent over the last four weeks ending 21st May 2022, the first sign of positive growth in 2022 since the Christmas period, reveals new data released today (31 May) by NielsenIQ.

With household budgets squeezed, shoppers are ‘shopping around’ for the best prices and NielsenIQ data shows that it is visits to stores (+7 per cent versus a year ago) which is driving Total Till growth and the improvement in bricks and mortar sales (+2 per cent).

The overall growth in sales was also helped by a +2.3 per cent increase in the week ending 21 May, as UK shoppers prepared for the school holidays and the long bank holiday Jubilee weekend, with 20 per cent of households expected to buy extra groceries for the Jubilee weekend.

In terms of categories over the last four weeks, there was a strong increase in sales for pet and pet care products (+11.9%), soft drinks (+11.2%) with Sports and Energy drinks sales increasing 21% and health, beauty and baby care products (+10.4%). The categories with the biggest declines were beers, wines and spirits (-12.1%) due to Covid-19 comparatives, as well as meat, fish and poultry (-4.7%). According to data from NielsenIQ, sales of general merchandise, which includes products such as seasonal decorations, clothing, homeware and gardening items returned to growth with sales in the last four weeks up +0.2 per cent with sales of clothing at supermarkets up 11 per cent.

Overall, while there was an improvement in grocery sales in the last four weeks, NielsenIQ data shows that shoppers spent 1.2 per cent less at UK supermarkets than in the previous four weeks, down to £10bn from £10.1bn in April, which benefited from the Easter period. And overall volume sales at the Grocery Multiples fell 6 per cent also reflecting the squeeze on household budgets.

Convenience channel grows as online shopping remains stable

In the last four weeks ending 21 May, NielsenIQ data shows that the convenience channel outperformed supermarkets, with a 3.7 per cent growth in sales and now accounts for 24 per cent of all FMCG sales. The increase in this channel highlights the change in consumer behaviour, as consumers spend more on the go, at work or socialising and are reverting to shopping ‘little and more often’.

Meanwhile, according to data from NielsenIQ, online sales fell 15 per cent in the last four weeks, but this is a reflection of COVID-19 comparatives in the previous year. The online share of FMCG sales remains stable at 11.7 per cent - compared to 13.7 per cent a year ago and 11.8 per cent in April - and online household penetration is also broadly unchanged at 27 per cent of households. This is now a consistent trend and is an indication that online shopping behaviour has normalised since March.

Promotional spend fell from 21.5 per cent of value sales last month to 20.4 per cent, similar to this time last year (20.6 per cent) suggesting that there is little appetite from retailers to use volume-based promotions to drive sales when shoppers are looking to spend less on each shopping trip.

In terms of retailer performance in the last 12 weeks, Total Till sales fell 1.7 per cent with Tesco (-1.4%), Iceland (-1.3%), Co operatives (-0.3%), M&S (+1.6%), Aldi (+5.8%) and Lidl (+9.9%) the retailers to gain market share.

Mike Watkins, NielsenIQ’s UK Head of Retailer and Business Insight, said: “The forthcoming Platinum Jubilee Bank Holiday weekend should give a welcome if short-term boost to grocery sales. While many shoppers may have been pre-buying items such as drinks and party decorations, the forecasted warm and sunny weather will provide a good trade up opportunity for fresh foods with al fresco dining top of mind for shoppers. While this helps superstores with their breadth of range, convenience stores are also likely to benefit from impulse purchasing as they always do when the sun shines.”

Shoppers are becoming more considered in what they buy and the current challenge for supermarkets is to improve volume growth by getting more items into the shopping basket. The upside for supermarkets is that shoppers may be more inclined to dine in at home as budgets get squeezed. Inflation is also moving the dial in the General Merchandise category and with around 35 per cent of General Merchandise sales at supermarkets coming from clothing which has strong value credentials, this may present an opportunity as shoppers return to stores and shop around this summer to save money in discretionary categories.”