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Coronavirus: UK lockdown sales of baking ingredients and alcohol rise

A sign instructing shoppers to maintain social distancing is seen at the entrance to a Tesco supermarket in Lincoln, Eastern England on April 20, 2020, as life in Britain continues during the nationwide lockdown to combat the novel coronavirus pandemic. - The number of people in England who have died in hospital from coronavirus has risen by 429 to 14,929 according to daily health ministry figures on Monday, April 20. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP) (Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)
A sign instructing shoppers to maintain social distancing is seen at the entrance to a UK supermarket, as life in Britain continues during the nationwide lockdown. (Oli Scarff/AFP via Getty Images)

Sales of baking ingredients, alcohol, and frozen vegetables are going up while shoppers have been buying less makeup, garden plants and newspapers as UK consumers alter their shopping habits during the coronavirus pandemic, new analysis has found.

The fastest-growing category in the UK last week was baking goods, up 49.3%, followed by tinned meat and sausages, as the UK continues in lockdown, according to market analysts IRI, which tracks sales at major grocery chains including supermarkets.

Figures show panic buying and stockpiling has eased as total sales were up by 1.9% in the week to 5 April compared with the same period last year. Before the government imposed lockdown measures, sales increased by as much as 50%.


Sales of alcohol, and high-demand packaged foods such as pasta, and essentials such as toilet roll and tissues continued to show strong growth of more than 14%.

Read more: UK households face disposable income fall of £515 per month

A rise in frozen food sales suggests shoppers are preparing for isolation at home, trying to maintain social distancing by buying food that keeps and taking fewer trips to the shops.

Tim Dummer, the commercial director of IRI said: “UK shoppers continue to shop less frequently but spend much more each time. In some retailers we have seen [the amount spent on each visit] nearly double compared with previous-year levels.”

The increase in frozen food sales may also reflect consumers attempting to waste less during the period of economic uncertainty when many have lost work or are living on reduced incomes, according to IRI.

Sales of garden plants and flowers decreased by 62.4%. While garden centres and many DIY stores are closed, supermarkets, discounters and other chains monitored by IRI have also repurposed shelf space usually given to plants and flowers in order to focus on groceries and other essentials.

Cosmetics sales fell by a third and newspaper sales slid by 25%.

Sales of toothbrushes and toothpaste were down just over 10%, with analysts IRI suggesting this could be a reflection of low demand after earlier stockpiling.

Read more: UK unemployment rose just as COVID-19 hit

Dummer said: “Since the initial stockpiling and as social distancing restrictions limit retailers’ capacity to service many more customers in stores, the UK market has begun to adjust to the new ‘lockdown norm’ and we see grocery sales begin to stabilise.”