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British grocery sales fall on anniversary of start of pandemic

·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: A customer wearing a protective face mask shops at a Morrisons store in St Albans

LONDON (Reuters) - British grocery sales fell 3% year-on-year in the four weeks to March 21 as supermarkets annualised the period just before the country's first COVID-19 lockdown, industry data showed on Tuesday.

Market researcher Kantar said the outcome compared to growth of 15.1% in its last monthly report.

This time last year, Britons were adjusting to schools and offices closing and making extra trips to the supermarket to fill their cupboards for lockdown.

"To put that into context, shoppers made 117 million fewer trips to the supermarket this month compared with those fraught weeks in March 2020," said Fraser McKevitt, Kantar's head of retail and consumer insight.

Grocery spending remains considerably higher than pre-pandemic levels though.

Kantar said online grocery growth slowed in the four week period.

"Online sales were 89% higher than this time last year, which is still impressive, but the channel's share of the market dropped back to 14.5% from the record of 15.4% in February 2021," said McKevitt.

He noted that 143,000 fewer over-65s, a sector of the UK population now largely vaccinated, made digital orders in March.

In the 12 weeks to March 21, Morrisons, Britain's No. 4 grocer, was again the best performer of the country's four major supermarket groups with sales growth of 8.7%.

Sales growth at market leader Tesco was 8.5%, followed by No. 3 Asda with growth of 7.6% and No. 2 Sainsbury's with growth of 7.3%.

German-owned discounters Aldi and Lidl again lost market share with sales growth of 1.5% and 2.9% respectively.

Kantar said grocery inflation over the 12-week period was 0.9%.

It said prices are rising fastest in markets such as canned colas, chilled fruit juices and chilled desserts while falling in bacon, beef and vegetables.

Source: Kantar

(Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Aurora Ellis)