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COVID-19 pushed Brits to spend extra £15bn on groceries in 2020

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Oscar Williams-Grut
·Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
·2-min read
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Shoppers wearing a face mask or covering due to the COVID-19 pandemic, look at empty fruit and vegetable troughs inside an ASDA supermarket in Walthamstow in north east London on December 22, 2020. - The British government said Tuesday it was considering tests for truckers as part of talks with French authorities to allow the resumption of freight traffic suspended due to a new strain of coronavirus. Britain was plunged into fresh crisis last week with the emergence of a fresh strain of the virus, which is believed to be up to 70 percent more transmissible than other forms. (Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP) (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)
Shoppers wearing a face mask or covering due to the COVID-19 pandemic, look at empty fruit and vegetable troughs inside an ASDA supermarket in Walthamstow in north east London on December 22, 2020. Photo: TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images

Stay at home orders and the closure of pubs, cafes and restaurants for much of 2020 led to surging supermarket sales last year.

Market research firm Kantar, which tracks supermarket sales and market share, said Brits spent an extra £15.2bn ($21.1bn) on groceries last year, which was equivalent to 7 billion extra meals eaten at home and 2 billion cups of tea since last spring.

"The pandemic has now been making its mark on our lives and completely changing the way we shop for a full year," said Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar.

"But we weren’t buying more of everything. With fewer social occasions in the diary, personal care has fallen down the agenda and spending on toiletries dropped by 1%. Liquid soap and hand sanitisers proved to be an understandable exception and sales grew by 127% over the past year."

Brits have spent an extra £500 on groceries over the last year, Kantar said, taking total supermarket spend to £4,800 for the average household.

Supermarket sales are once again on the up with Britain back in lockdown. Kantar said sales in the four weeks to 21 February were 15.1% higher than the same period last year.

READ MORE: Budget 2021: Brits will be able to buy their favourite pubs with government's £150m pot

Tesco (TSCO.L) was the best performer, growing its market share by 0.2 percentage points. I was the supermarket's first market share gain since December 2016.

Iceland grew its market share by 0.3 percentage points but remains much smaller than Tesco. Morrisons (MRW.L) eked out market share gains of 0.1 percentage point.

"We’ll start to see year-on-year decline following the anniversary of the first national lockdown next month," McKevitt said. "Sales will be measured against last year’s record spending and comparisons will be tough against the heights of 2020. Demand for groceries is also likely to subside as the hospitality sector re-opens."

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