Fuel woes drive bigger shops as consumers look to Christmas – Kantar figures

The latest figures from Kantar suggest consumers limited their visits to supermarkets, as they looked to save fuel. The data also revealed that Christmas preparation has started for many households.

Overall grocery sales fell by 1.2% year-on-year in the 12 weeks to October 3, but are “considerably higher” than pre-pandemic times, up 8.1% compared with the same period in 2019, according to Kantar. 

In drinks, overall alcohol was down 6% year-on-year though it was a mixed picture, with non-alcoholic beer up 15%, flavoured alcoholic beverages (FABs) growing 11% and sparkling wine up 4%. However, beer slipped 5%, wine was down 8% and spirits fell 5%. 

Sales of Christmas puddings were up 76% in the latest four weeks, while like-for-like grocery inflation stood at 1.7% in same period – meaning the average household had to spend an extra £5.94 on groceries last month than they did at the same time in 2020. 

Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar, said: “Queues outside petrol stations made headlines last month and visits to forecourts in the south of England increased by 66% on Friday 24 September as people topped up their tanks ahead of the weekend. The reduced availability of petrol saw shoppers limit the number of trips they made to supermarkets. The average household made 15.5 store visits in the past four weeks, the lowest monthly figure since February. Shoppers staying off the roads also meant the proportion of groceries bought online, which has been steadily decreasing over the past seven months, crept up to 12.4% compared with 12.2% in September.”

McKevitt said that consumers made the most of their time in store, with trips where people spent over £100 up 6%. 

“A minority of very prepared shoppers also took the chance to get ahead on their festive spending, as 449,000 eager consumers bought their Christmas pudding in September, with sales 76% higher than in the same month last year,” he added. “Sales of toys are also up by 5% on last year while gift wrapping products grew by 10%. It’s important to say, however, that these are still relatively small numbers and anxiety around supply issues has not translated to panic buying – festive or otherwise.”  

Meanwhile, McKevitt said that climate change conference, the COP26 Summit, which starts on 31 October, will also influence future spending.  

“With only a few weeks to go until world leaders converge on Glasgow, 29% of British consumers now consider themselves to be environmentally conscious, up from 23% last year. These customers can bring significant spending power to retailers and they now account for £37 billion of grocery sales annually. Plastic waste is the most pressing concern for British consumers, with 48% of shoppers naming it in their top five environmental priorities. Continuing to address these issues will be vital for businesses to engage shoppers in future.”  

The retailers

Kantar highlighted Tesco’s recent “positive set of results”, adding that the retailer continues to grow ahead of the market with sales up by 1.2% in the 12 weeks to October 3 compared with the same period last year. “Tesco’s market share increased by 0.6 percentage points and now stands at 27.5%, the highest level since February 2019,” Kantar said. 

According to the data, Lidl was the only other retailer to achieve growth in the past 12 weeks, increasing sales by 0.4% to give it a market share of 6.2% – matching its previous record high in May 2021. Waitrose’s sales remained flat, nudging up market share by 0.1 percentage points to 5.1%.  

Kantar said market share was unmoved at both Sainsbury’s and Asda, sitting at 14.9% and 14.4%, respectively. Aldi and Iceland also remained steady – Aldi holds 8% of sales and Iceland has 2.3%. Morrisons’ market share slipped from 10.1% to 9.8% in the latest 12 weeks.   

“Consumer behaviour continues to creep back to pre-pandemic habits and retailers that made significant gains last year are beginning to return to normal,” Kantar said. “Having benefited from consumers shopping locally during the pandemic, Co-op’s share fell by 0.2 percentage points in the latest 12 weeks, to 6.4%. Ocado sales shrank by 5.9% this period, but the online specialist still showed the greatest two-year increase of any retailer, with sales 35.9% higher than in 2019.”    

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