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Online grocery sales fall for first time ever as consumers return to shops, restaurants and workplaces

Written by on 20/07/2021

Online grocery sales have fallen for the first time on record as consumers returned to shops, workplaces and restaurants, according to industry data.

Figures from data firm Kantar showed that following a rapid rise during the pandemic, online sales by supermarkets were down by 2.6% in the four weeks to 11 July compared to the same period a year ago.

That left the online share of the grocery market at 13.3%, down from 15.4% at its peak in February this year but still much higher than the 8.7% level where it stood in February 2020 before COVID-19 took hold.

People enjoy the sun at outdoor restaurant tables in Kingston, London, as Bank Holiday Monday could be the hottest day of the year so far - with temperatures predicted to hit 25C in parts of the UK. Picture date: Monday May 31, 2021.
Image: Consumers have been returning to restaurants

Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar, said the number of people shopping for groceries online fell by 81,000 in the latest four-week period compared to a year ago.

There was also an 8% fall in the size of each customer’s “digital basket” to £80 per shop.

It came as the wider grocery market – including in-store purchases – also posted a decline over a longer period covering the 12 weeks to 11 July, with sales down by 5.1% on 2020.

However supermarkets are still enjoying healthier revenues than before the pandemic, with sales for the period £3bn higher than they were in 2019, according to Kantar.

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Meanwhile, the impact of England’s progress in the Euro 2020 tournament seemed to have a mixed impact on sales.

For the four weeks to mid-July, take-home sales of alcohol were actually 3% down on the previous month as consumers chose to make use of their new found freedoms to drink in pubs and restaurants.

Image: England’s football progress had a mixed impact

However sales of booze were still about £1.2bn higher than for the same period in 2019 while crisps, snacks and pizzas also enjoyed strong growth.

As rules on wearing masks in stores came to an end this week, Kantar also found 55% of shoppers said they felt safe on their latest visit to a retailer.

Mr McKevitt said: “The proportion of people who feel safe when visiting stores has not varied significantly over the past six months, despite the majority of the country now being at least partially vaccinated.

“Just over half of the population feel happy and secure in store but that of course means a significant minority still experience some degree of anxiety while out and about.”

 Sky News

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