Coronavirus-driven stockpiling by Britons girding for a nationwide lockdown lifted U.K. grocery sales to a record in March, according to research firm Kantar.
Supermarket sales grew by 7.6 percent in the past 12 weeks, the fastest pace in more than a decade. That rate of increase nearly tripled over the past four weeks, making March the biggest month of grocery sales ever recorded.
Among the big four supermarket chains, J Sainsbury Plc. was the winner, with sales growth of 7.4 percent during the past three months. It outpaced rivals Tesco Plc., Wm Morrison Supermarkets Plc. and Asda Stores Ltd.
The German discounters Aldi and Lidl also benefited, with sales rising by 11 percent and 18 percent, respectively, during the past 12 weeks. Even though Ocado Group Plc, the online grocer, has been dogged by capacity problems on its website it still managed to acquire 133,000 new shoppers during the same period, boosting its sales by 13 percent.
“It has been an extraordinary month,” said Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar. “Retailers and their staff have been on the front line as households prepare for an extended stay at home.”
Grocery sales of £10.8 billion ($13.3 billion) during the past four weeks alone were higher than levels seen at Christmas, normally the busiest time of year, he said.
The scale of the stockpiling in March has meant grocers have had to quickly adapt distribution networks to help cope with the demand. Sainsbury, for example, has adapted a clothing warehouse in Bedford, England, to store more food.
“We have deprioritized clothing in the short term to focus on getting as much food and other essentials on the shelves,” a spokeswoman said.
The extraordinary growth won’t be sustained, though increases will be higher than usual in the coming months as bars and restaurants remain shut, Bruno Monteyne, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein, said in a note to clients.
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