Coronavirus: Brits spent £500m extra on groceries in April due to lockdown

Oscar Williams-Grut
Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
A sign instructing shoppers to maintain social distancing is seen at the entrance to a Tesco supermarket in Lincoln, Eastern England on April 20, 2020. (OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)

Brits have spent £524m ($651m) more on groceries in April than they did in the same month last year, market research firm Kantar Worldpanel said on Tuesday.

The ongoing nationwide lockdown pushed up grocery sales by 5.5% in April, as Brits ate more meals at home.

Households made an average of 14 trips to the shops over the last four weeks, which was an all-time low. Meanwhile, the average basket size rose to a record high of £26.02. It suggests the public are following the government’s advice to stay at home as much as possible by doing fewer, bigger shops to stock up their cupboards.

“People are spending more time at home and eating fewer meals out of the house, which has led to a strong growth in take-home grocery sales,” said Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar.

Pressure on UK supermarkets has eased in recent weeks despite the continued growth in sales. April’s 5.5% rise compares to a 20.6% surge in March. The slowdown suggests the panic buying that led to empty shelves last month is easing.

Friday and Saturday remain the peak days for the weekly shop but Kantar said trips had increased for the rest of the week too, making it harder for shoppers to find a quiet period to pick up groceries.

Online shopping grew in April, with a surge in older people ordering their groceries online. Over-65s spent 94% more on online groceries than they did this time a year ago.

“Retailers’ efforts to increase their online capacity are clearly working, with shopper numbers up by a quarter,” McKevitt said. “Online sales now account for 10.2% of overall grocery, versus 7.4% last month, with the greatest increase among older shoppers.”

Baking goods and alcohol continue to see surging demand, while sun cream sales and Easter chocolates failed to see their usual seasonal boost.

Grocery sales grew by 9.1% overall in the 12 weeks to 19 April. All of the UK’s ten biggest supermarkets saw growth in sales, with Co-op enjoying the biggest boost. Sales rose by 20% at Co-op supermarkets over the period.