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Supermarket sales boosted by pub curfew and lockdown fears

Oscar Williams-Grut
·Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
·2 min read
A man walks past the toilet paper in an Asda supermarket in Walthamstow, east London in Walthamstow, east London on September 23, 2020. - Britain on Tuesday tightened restrictions to stem a surge of coronavirus cases, ordering pubs to close early and advising people to go back to working from home to prevent a second national lockdown. (Photo by Tolga AKMEN / AFP) (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)
Asda supermarket in Walthamstow, east London. Photo: Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images

The end of Eat Out to Help Out, the introduction of curfews at bars and restaurants, and fears of local lockdowns combined to boost supermarket sales last month.

Market research firm Kantar on Tuesday said supermarket sales rose by 10.6% in the four weeks to the start of October. Nielsen, a rival data collector, said it estimated supermarket sales grew by 8.3% in the month to the start of October. Both firms said sales growth accelerated last month.

“Shoppers are moving a greater proportion of their eating and drinking back into the home,” said Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar.

“This is likely a response to rising COVID-19 infection rates, greater restrictions on opening hours in the hospitality sector, and the end of the government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme.”

READ MORE: Early Christmas shopping boosts UK retailers

Alcohol sales were £261m ($341m) higher than the same period last year. McKevitt said pub curfews — which came into force in late September — were likely a motivating factor behind the sales spike.

Watch: Profits jumps 28.7% at Tescos

Kantar’s data suggests consumers were preparing for possible harsher restrictions. Sales of toilet roll jumped by 64% in the final week of September and sales of flour were up 73%. The week of 21 September was the busiest week for supermarkets since March — although McKevitt said activity was still “nowhere near” the level of panic buying and stockpiling seen during the first lockdown.

The rise in sales in September reverses a slowdown seen in August, which was caused by Eat Out to Help Out.

Ocado (OCDO.L) was the fastest growing grocer in the 12 weeks to 4 October. Sales were up 42% on last year, Kantar said, and Ocado added 22,000 new customers last month. The online grocer was boosted by its new tie-up with Marks & Spencer (MKS.L).

READ MORE: Liverpool businesses ordered shut as 'traffic light' lockdown system confirmed

“Since it started to sell M&S products on 1 September, two-thirds of Ocado shoppers have ordered Percy Pigs at some point, including an introductory period when the famous sweets were included free,” McKevitt said. “Ocado’s share of the market rose this period by 0.4 percentage points to 1.8%.”

Morrisons (MRW.L), Lidl, and Iceland all also enjoyed double digit percentage sales growth in the 12 weeks to the start of October, Kantar said.

Watch: What is a V-shaped recovery for the UK economy?