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05 May 2021 | 11:02

Supermarket shoppers return to stores as lockdown eases

(Sharecast News) - Online grocery sales growth slowed in April as increasingly confident shoppers started returning to stores following the easing of lockdown restrictions, a survey showed. Growth in online sales eased to 25% in the four weeks to 24 April from 92% a month earlier, NielsenIQ data revealed. Visits to physical stores rose 3% - the first increase for a year - compared with a drop of 19% in March.

In-store visits rose but average spend declined, leaving physical sales flat at £8bn. Total UK supermarket sales rose 4.6% despite the partial reopening of hospitality, which would be expected to eat into food and drink sales for home consumption.

Categories that suffered during lockdowns recovered in April including health and beauty items, whose sales rose 27%, deli items, up 28% and bakery products, up 15.5%. Recent surveys have shown consumer confidence rising rapidly as vaccines are administered and restrictions ease.

In the past 12 weeks Lidl, up 18%, and Aldi, up 10%, had the fastest growth. Asda was the best performer of the big four grocers, up 4.6%, followed by Sainsbury's where sales rose 3.9%. Marks & Spencer sales rose 3.9% as non-essential retail reopened and people bought more food on the go. Tesco's share declined to 26.4% from 26.9%.

Mike Watkins, NielsenIQ's UK head of retailer and business insight, said: "As lockdown restrictions ease across the UK, it is clear that shopper behaviours have changed once again with growing confidence and growing numbers returning to stores.

"With rules set to relax further within the next few weeks, consumer lifestyles will begin to adapt and it's likely that we'll see another change in grocery spend as cafes, pubs and restaurants fully reopen."
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