Belfast Telegraph

Beast from the East fails to freeze grocery sales

Shoppers cut their store visits by 5% but bought 4% more items than normal as they stockpiled for the freezing conditions.

The Beast from the East created a mixed bag for supermarkets as customers stockpiled groceries for the cold snap but visited stores less often after the bad weather arrived, figures show.

Lost sales as a result of the storm were “minimised” to £22 million for supermarkets as consumers cut their store visits by 5% but bought 4% more items than normal, increasing the average value of a trip from £14.99 to £15.80, Kantar Worldpanel said.

Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar Worldpanel, said: “The Beast from the East played havoc with consumers’ usual shopping plans.

“Warming foods and drinks were the go-to items for customers after braving the snowy weather – sales of hot beverages and tinned soup grew by 8.4% and 27.5% respectively over the past month.”

Overall grocery sales for the 12 weeks to March 25 increased in value by 2.5% compared with the same time last year despite the adverse weather conditions, helped by an earlier Easter motivating consumers into starting their shopping for the event during March.

Sales of Easter eggs were up 69% on last year despite average prices up 35p to £1.83, while hot cross buns also saw a steep rise, with sales up £7.7 million on a year ago.

Mr McKevitt said: “Almost 15 million shoppers picked up Easter eggs last month, while the average household, tempted by promotional offers, was swayed into buying at least two Easter eggs to meet their seasonal chocolate fix.”

Aldi and Lidl both achieved new market share highs – Aldi by 0.5 percentage points to reach a 7.3% share of the market and Lidl climbing to a 5.3% share.

Tesco achieved a sales increase of 2.4% to hold market share steady at 27.6% – the first time it has held its share since December 2016 – and attracted an additional 262,000 customers through its doors.

Morrisons also saw sales increase by 2.4%, but Asda’s market share fell back by 0.2 percentage points to 15.6% and Sainsbury’s share also dropped 0.3 percentage points to 15.8% despite sales growth of 0.6%.

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Analysts Nielsen also recorded strong growth rates despite slowing price inflation and the weather, finding that a drop in supermarket visits coincided with shoppers spending 3.3% more on groceries compared with the same period last year.

Tesco had the most improved year-on-year performance among the top four supermarkets over the 12 weeks ending March 24, with sales up 3.1%, followed by Asda at 2.9%, Nielsen said.

Mike Watkins, Nielsen’s UK head of retailer insight, said: “The recent Nielsen Consumer Confidence survey showed that 48% of shoppers are looking to save money, so some may be cutting out unnecessary trips as part of carefully managing household finances.

“However, the good news is that supermarket food inflation is now slowing, which might help shoppers spend more on impulse categories.”

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