Changing patterns across retail sector

[27 August] Across the main supermarkets in Northern Ireland, Lidl has reported the strongest sales growth, with an increase of 10.2% according to Kantar. In addition, shoppers were spending 12.5% more in the discount retailer.

As a whole, the report showed the grocery market in NI grew by 7.4% during the 52 weeks until 9th August. Despite Lidl’s strong growth, Tesco remains the most popular retailer, with market share of 35.3% and growth of 8.4%.

Sainsbury’s maintained its position as the second most popular retailer, with market share of 17.1%. Asda is third, with share of 16%.

According to the report, sales were down by 0.2% in ‘other multiples’, which includes Iceland and Marks and Spencer. The ‘total symbols’ category which includes convenience stores like Spar, Eurospar, Centra and Mace, grew sales by 15.6%. Emer Healy, retail analyst at Kantar, said supermarket sales had accelerated as lockdown was eased, with growth of 13.6% over the last 12 weeks. Additionally, she added that Tesco and Sainsbury’s were also benefiting from a bigger spend by their customers. However, visitors to Asda shops were outdoing shoppers at other grocers, with volumes up 17%.

Tesco this week announced recruitment of an additional 16,000 staff members to cope with the increased demand from online grocery orders, a process which can’t be automated. While Lidl experienced strong growth, without online ordering capability it is unlikely to enter the top three.

Young shoppers change their attitudes to convenience stores

Convenience stores were a mainstay for many of us during the height of lockdown, and their importance has become increasingly evident. According to PayPoint, more than half of UK shoppers hadn’t visited their local store until March, with younger shoppers a key driver of growth.

The research from PayPoint found 56% of people saying they went to their local convenience store for the first-time during lockdown, a figure rising to 68% among 18-24 year olds, and 59% of 25-34 year olds. The study also found that half of people had increased the frequency of their convenience store visits during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Two thirds of people think that their local stores have a positive impact on their area, and more than half plan to continue shopping locally post-lockdown.

“This data clearly shows that the UK is undergoing a boom in appreciation for, and reliance on, convenience retail,” says PayPoint chief executive Nick Wiles.

“As lockdown continues to ease, the data tells us that ‘convenience converts’ will continue to use their convenience stores for a range of services, from everyday food and drink purchases to parcel pick-ups and drop-offs, utility bill top-ups, cash withdrawals and much more.”

Unexpected retail outcomes post covid

As we reported last week, Christmas shopping is well underway for some. This week, John Lewis announced its Christmas store will open 10 days earlier than last year, in shops from 25th September. The retailer says searches on its website are already up 370% year on year. The most searched for products include Christmas trees, baubles, cards, lights and wrapping paper.

Sales at DFS have also rocketed post-lockdown with many families choosing to invest in their homes rather than holidays or leisure. Sales over the past six weeks were £100m higher than initially expected, with customers spending up to 9% more than pre-Covid as consumers trade up to more expensive premium ranges.

This forward planning may come from a desire to spread the cost of large purchases over a longer period, increased disposable income for some and concerns about potential future lockdowns impacting product availability and the desire for a more comfortable living space.