Britain's grocery sales rose 9.4% last month but there's no panic

LONDON (Reuters) - British grocery sales increased by 9.4% in October year-on-year as COVID-19 restrictions tightened, though there was no evidence of stockpiling or panic buying by consumers, market researcher Kantar said on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: A customer wearing a protective face mask shops at a Morrisons store in St Albans, Britain, September 10, 2020. REUTERS/Peter Cziborra/File Photo

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland enacted new COVID-19 health restrictions last month and England began a one-month lockdown last week to curb a second wave of a pandemic that has left the United Kingdom with Europe’s highest death toll.

“While there was some uplift in Wales (which started a 17-day lockdown on Oct. 23) the increased spending did not provide any evidence of stockpiling, and initial figures suggest no sign of panic buying in England either,” said Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar.

He said early evidence suggests that consumers in England are confident about getting the essentials during the new four- week lockdown, which started on Nov. 5, even if the restrictions impinge on festive shopping.

However, Kantar’s conclusions were at odds with October survey data also published on Tuesday by payment card provider Barclaycard which said Britons were stockpiling essentials in preparation for potential shortages.

Kantar said Morrisons, the fourth biggest supermarket group, was the best performer of Britain’s “big four” grocers with sales up 11.4% over the 12 weeks to Nov. 1 period and its market share growing for the fifth month in a row.

Sales at market leader Tesco were up 9.1% and increased 7.6% at Sainsbury’s. Walmart owned Asda was again the laggard with growth of 5.0%.

Online supermarket Ocado was again the fastest growing retailer, with sales up 36.1%, while discounter Aldi again lost market share.

Kantar said grocery inflation was 1.9% over the 12 weeks. It said prices are rising fastest in markets such as canned cola, ice cream and sausages while falling in vegetables, bread and rice.

Market share and sales growth (%)

12 wks to 12 wks to pct change

Nov. 1 2020 Nov. 3 2019 in sales

Tesco 27.0 27.0 9.1

Sainsbury’s 15.3 15.6 7.6

Asda 14.4 14.9 5.0

Morrisons 10.2 10.0 11.4

Aldi 7.8 8.0 6.6

Co-operative 6.4 6.5 8.6

Lidl 6.1 5.9 12.5

Waitrose 5.1 5.0 10.6

Iceland 2.3 2.1 17.9

Ocado 1.7 1.4 36.1

Source: Kantar

Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Kate Holton and Ed Osmond