Lockdown preparations led to record grocery spend

Lockdown preparations led to record grocery spend
Stock generic image coronavirus Toilet rolls are being restocked in an East Cork supermarket. Picture Dan Linehan

The Covid-19 pandemic, and measures to slow the spread of the virus, meant the grocery market had its busiest ever month in March as shoppers spent an additional €122 on groceries.

People are making fewer trips to the supermarket but spending has increased, with spending increased on hand soap, household cleaners, toilet paper, tissues, and frozen foods.

New data issued by Kantar shows the 12 weeks to March 22 were the busiest ever recorded, with year-on-year sales increasing by 10.1%

The data shows the full impact of the Covid-19 restrictions on the grocery market.

On March 12, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced the first wave of restrictions, including school closures. This sparked a flurry of panic buying, despite repeated warnings that supply chains were stable and that shelves would remain full.

Further restrictions have been implemented since, with people now spending the majority of time at home. This, and the closure of many restaurants, has led to increased spending at supermarkets, with the average household paying out an additional €122 on groceries during the four weeks to March 22.

In fact, the market grew by 27% in the last four weeks, making March the biggest month of grocery sales ever recorded.

Soap and household cleaners are among the most sought-after items. Hand soap sales have increased by 300% and demand for household cleaners is up by 170%.

Facial tissues and toilet roll were also in demand, with sales up by 140% and 86% respectively.

In terms of food, items with a longer shelf life topped the list for many. Frozen and ambient foods — those which can be stored at room temperature — saw sales increase by 32% in comparison to a growth of just 16% for fresh food.

Year-on-year sales in the 12 weeks ending March 22, 2020, are up 10.1% in comparison to the same period in 2019. Growth in the four weeks to March 22 was nearly three times higher, with shopper spend up 27%.

More households than ever before placed an online order in the four weeks to March 22, with approximately one in 10 households doing so.

This represents 25,000 more shoppers purchasing groceries online than last Christmas, the previous peak, and 54,000 more than the same period in 2019.

Kantar managing director David Berry said: “Over the past month, we have faced profound changes to our daily lives as a result of the need for social distancing, impacting the way we work, shop and socialise.

“Retailers and their staff have risen to an enormous challenge since restrictions on movement were announced on March 12. They have been on the frontline as households across Ireland prepared to spend more time at home, with more mouths to feed.”

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