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UK customers made fewer supermarket trips the week after mandatory face mask rules were implemented, report reveals

·3-min read
The UK coronavirus death toll in hospitals has risen by 11: AFP via Getty Images
The UK coronavirus death toll in hospitals has risen by 11: AFP via Getty Images

Nervous shoppers made fewer trips to food stores the week after rules on mandatory face coverings were introduced, it emerged today.

Data from market research firm Kantar showed two million fewer trips to stores were taken after the rule was brought in in England on July 24. Those who don’t wear a mask face a fine of up to £100, which will be reduced to £50 if people pay within 14 days.

Analysts said: “The number of supermarket trips was two million lower than would have usually been expected in the week after the rule was adopted, and currently just over half of shoppers say they feel safe in stores. That suggests the public may need time to adjust to the new regulations, and they now have to plan ahead for every shopping trip.”

The study showed shoppers made fewer trips to stores in the past four weeks than they did a month ago.

Since the Covid-19 induced lockdown began in March, shoppers have typically taken fewer trips to stores but haven bought more items. Online shopping has also boomed as shoppers stay at home – now accounting for 13.5% of all sales.

The Kantar research showed the grocery market grew 14.4% in the past 12 weeks – a slight decline compared with last month. Shoppers are gradually returning to some of their pre-lockdown habits, including visiting pubs and restaurants which reopened on July 4 and have seen a boost to trade from Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme. The scheme has led to a “significant uplift” in footfall at restaurants, cafes and bars, Kantar said. Alcohol sales continue to do well – up 28.3% over the past four weeks, booze is excluded from Sunak’s scheme.

Britons spent £9.7 billion on groceries over the past four weeks makes - the lowest since February, but still considerably higher than pre-pandemic levels as food retail appears one of the few industries to gain revenues from the Covid crisis. Industry bosses argue the extra costs of implementing social distancing measures in stores and hiring extra staff to cover absent employees have eroded profits.

Charlotte Scott, consumer insight director at Kantar, said: “Although the current average of 14 shopping trips per month per household is lower than it was last month, it is higher than in April and May, when lockdown rules were much tighter. So, while some consumers have shopped more often in the past month, the story varies in different parts of the country, with localised lockdowns and slower openings resulting in people making fewer trips in the North, the Midlands and Wales.”

Morrisons was the fastest growing of the big four grocers over the last quarter – with sales up 16%, ahead of Tesco, then Sainsbury’s and Asda which, with Waitrose, was the only major grocer not to record double-digit growth.

Online specialist Ocado is the fastest growing UK grocer, with sales up 45.5% and a market share of 1.8%. The retailer is readying for divorce from Waitrose after two decades selling its products, instead it has set up a joint venture with Marks & Spencer. Iceland, Co-op, Lidl and Aldi all saw strong quarterly sales growth.

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