ONS figures reveal grocers ‘resilience’ during Omicron surge


Grocers proved their ‘resilience’ as food store sales dropped by just 1% during December – when the spread of Omicron kept shoppers away from stores – according to the latest figures from The Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Grocery stores fared better than most, as retail sales volumes fell by 3.7% across the board – the biggest monthly fall since January 2021, with department stores, clothes stores and homewares businesses seeing a 7.1% drop.

Despite the drop – which came on the back of a strong November – food store figures remained 3.2% above pre-pandemic levels (compared to February 2020).

“The spread of Omicron may have slowed Christmas spending, but the perseverance of retailers helped deliver a successful Christmas for consumers,” said Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

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Hargreaves Lansdown’s senior investment and markets analyst Susannah Streeter agreed, pointing out that grocers were more “resilient” as they “scooped up customers who’d cancelled restaurant and bar bookings for a festive blow out at home”.

It was, however, “far from a supermarket sweep” Streeter emphasised, highlighting that the coming weeks and months are expected to be difficult for both consumers and retailers.

“Already two thirds of adults are reporting the cost of living has increased over the past four weeks, and with more energy price rises on the way there are likely to be far fewer shoppers merrily splashing the cash in the months to come.”

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