Covid-19: Online grocery sales plummet for the first time on record

The number of shoppers buying groceries online fell for the first time ever as the peak of home deliveries during the height of the pandemic eased, according to new data.

Online orders fell 81,000 in July compared with the same four weeks a year ago, data firm Kantar found, and digital baskets shrank eight per cent to £80 a shop – the lowest level since February 2020.

Supermarkets also failed to fully benefit from the football fever of the Euro 2020 tournament, with shoppers preferring to watch games in pubs and bars instead of at home, according to the figures.

As a result, take-home sales of alcohol over the four weeks to mid-July fell three per cent compared with a month earlier, Kantar said.

READ MORE: Sainsbury’s sales growth grinds to a halt

“It was a huge month for British football, with major tournaments usually providing a significant boost to supermarkets, Kantar head of retail and consumer insight, Fraser McKevitt said.

“But with many fans choosing to make the most of newfound freedoms and watch the matches in pubs and bars, take-home sales of alcohol over the four weeks to mid-July were actually down by three per cent compared with the previous month.

“That said, shoppers still spent £1.2 billion on the category – a 24 per cent increase on the same period in 2019.

“Crisps and snack brands also enjoyed a boost from those of us who gathered round to watch the games at home and sales grew by 23 per cent compared with two years ago.”

The details come as sales in supermarkets continue to cool compared with a year ago at the height of the first lockdown when shelves were stripped bare and panic-buying set in.

In the 12 weeks to July 11, sales fell 5.1 per cent compared with a year ago – although this was up by more than £3 billion on the same period in 2019, before the pandemic.

Of all the high street supermarkets, which faced tough comparisons with a year ago, only Waitrose saw sales rise compared with a year ago – up 0.1 per cent. The worst performer was Co-op with a fall of 14.6 per cent, followed by Iceland, down 11.6 per cent.

Unlike most of their rivals, both refused to repay business rates saved from last year’s tax holiday despite seeing soaring sales due to the pandemic.

Kantar also found that the majority of shoppers felt safe on their latest trip to a retailer, despite rising Covid-19 infection levels.

McKevitt added: “The proportion of people who feel safe when visiting stores has not varied significantly over the past six months, despite the majority of the country now being at least partially vaccinated.

“Just over half of the population feel happy and secure in store but that of course means a significant minority still experience some degree of anxiety while out and about.”

Of the Big 4 grocers – Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons , Tesco’s market share moved up from 26.7 per cent to 27.1 per cent, while Sainsbury’s rose from 14.9 per cent to 15.2 per cent.

Asda’s share slipped by 0.1 percentage points to 14.0 per cent and Morrisons’ fell from 10.3 per cent last year to 10.1 per cent this period.

All four saw sales fall compared with a year earlier.

with PA Wires.

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