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03 Mar 2020 | 09:25

Supermarket sales rise as shoppers snap up hygiene products

(Sharecast News) - Supermarket sales rose at their fastest pace since November in February as consumers bought more health and hygiene products in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Total grocery sales rose 0.7% to £28.71bn in the 12 weeks to 24 February, Kantar's monthly survey showed.

Sainsbury's 0.3% gain to £4.49bn was the only increase among the big four grocers as Lidl and Aldi continued to gain market share. Lidl gained 11.4% to £1.66bn, making it the fastest growing supermarket for the first time since 2017. Its German rival Aldi's sales increased 5.7% to £2.28bn.

Ocado was a big gainer, with sales rising 10.8% to £416m as the online operator prepares to change its main supplier to Marks & Spencer from Waitrose. The Co-op's sales rose 2.5% to £1.72bn. The Co-op and Ocado were the only grocers apart from Lidl and Aldi to increase their share of the market.

Among the other big four grocers, sales at Tesco and Asda dipped by 0.8% and 1.2% respectively and Morrisons' sales were 2% lower.

Total sales were supported by a surge in demand for hand sanitiser and other hygiene products in February. Sanitiser sales rose 255% and purchases of other liquid soaps rose 7%. Sales of household cleaners increased 10%.

Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar, said: "Given the media focus around the outbreak of COVID-19 in February, it's unsurprising to see shoppers prudently protecting themselves from illness."

The survey was carried when concerns were mounting about the COVID-19 coronavirus but before a sharp rise in cases that has prompted talk about cities being locked down to contain the virus. Supermarkets are now braced for panic stockpiling by households of food and other essentials.

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