Shoppers splurged to recreate restaurant feeling during lockdown

Shoppers splurged to recreate restaurant feeling during lockdown
Shoppers spent almost 25% more in the 12 weeks to June 14 than the same period last year, according to retail analysts Kantar. Picture: Stock image

Shoppers are splurging to recreate restaurant experiences at home, with sales of luxury food items and alcohol increasing in recent weeks.

And, despite the easing of travel restrictions in recent weeks, some lockdown habits remain: people are making fewer trips to the supermarket, they are still buying in bulk and many are continuing to shop online.

Shoppers spent almost 25% more in the 12 weeks to June 14 than the same period last year, according to retail analysts Kantar. 

In the last four weeks, the number of supermarket trips taken rose by just 2.3% compared to the previous eight weeks, but shoppers are spending an average of €204 more than this time last year.

In part, the increase in spend is driven by people marking special occasions at home by recreating the experience they would have had if they had been able to go to a restaurant or bar, with branded items increasing in sale in comparison to their own brand equivalents.

In addition, alcohol sales have boomed. In the four weeks ending on June 14, which included the June bank holiday and some of the warmest weather seen in the year to date, alcohol sales increased by 93%. 

In the week before that bank holiday, shoppers spent an additional €60 million on groceries, one-third of which was on alcohol.

People have also been trying to recreate restaurant experiences at home: sales of ingredients such as curry pastes, coconut milk and Mexican meal kits increased by 34% this month, while brunch lovers pushed bacon sales up 25%, eggs up 36% and sausages up 35% year-on-year.

Picnic favourites like dips, soft drinks and crisps, have all soared by between 25% and 52%, according to Kantar analyst Emer Healy. She said the data indicates "cautious optimism" in shoppers.

"Despite the months of lockdown, 40% of Irish consumers say they feel financially comfortable and that’s reflected in how they are shopping. 

"With some of the usual ways to treat themselves off-limits, they’re trading up to branded goods in store, spending an additional €381m on these products compared with last year," she said.

Online shopping continues to soar, too, with spend increasing by 114.3% year on year.

Kantar also reports that sales at independent retailers have increased by 44.8% in the last 12 weeks as people depend more on local greengrocers and butchers than larger retailers. 

Despite this, though, all the major retailers saw sales grow in the last 12 weeks, too.

Overall, retail sales increased by 29.5% in May 2020 in comparison to April 2020, the CSO reported in its latest retail sales index. 

On an annual basis, retail sales are still lower than this time last year which is not a surprise as many retail outlets remained closed in May due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Shoppers splurged to recreate restaurant feeling during lockdown
Shopping in Cork city. Picture: Denis Minihane

Sales in the motor trade increased by 153.9% in May compared to April, with hardware (92.5%) and furniture (85.9%) also seeing huge increases as they were allowed to reopen having been shut the previous month. 

Books, newspapers and stationery slumped by 35.7%, while cosmetics and pharmaceuticals dropped 2.2%.

Data published by the Central Bank shows that people's spend is almost back at normal levels.

In the week ending June 22, debit and credit card spend had almost recovered to pre-lockdown levels. 

In the first week of March, before any restrictions were introduced, €1.48 billion was spent by shoppers using their cards. 

By mid-April, this dropped to just €875 million, but by June 22, it had recovered to €1.35 billion, a 54.7% increase.

The data also shows consumers remain wary of using cash. The number of ATM transactions is down by 44.3% and the amount of money withdrawn is down by 36.5% from March to June.

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