Supermarket sales soar during late spring heatwave

The unusually warm spring weather has moved the dial over the last four weeks, with grocery sales accelerating to +5% growth, according to Nielsen data. 

Supermarkets saw the best non-seasonal growth in a four week period since July 2013, when a summer heatwave pushed 4-weekly industry growth to +6.7% 

“This growth is well ahead of inflation, indicating that despite any underlying concerns shoppers may have around balancing the monthly household budget, they are willing to spend on food and drink,” said Mike Watkins, Nielsen’s UK head of retailer insight. “This is likely to be driven by a combination of the early May bank holiday, a royal wedding and unseasonably hot weather over the period, which encouraged shoppers to visit more often to indulge and celebrate.”

Retailers also maintained their promotional offers after a weaker than expected Easter. Promotions accounted for 27% of sales as supermarkets targeted these to categories such as drinks, snacking and frozen, to appeal to British shoppers who were keen to take advantage of the weather.

Over the twelve weeks ending 19 May, Asda had the most improved year-on-year sales growth of the top four supermarkets (+3.3%) followed by Morrisons (2.6%). Overall, Iceland had the best growth figures outside of the discounters (+ 3.8%). 

Despite the recent announcement surrounding store closures and the refocus of its clothing and homeware ranges, Marks & Spencer food sales improved in line with the overall market in the last four weeks, again likely prompted by the summer weather.

Convenience stores have also benefited, with sales up +4.3%, being well-placed to help shoppers prepare for impromptu barbecues with friends and family. Watkins said while store location is important for retailers to be able to capture the incremental spend that warm weather brings, this is not the only way that shoppers decide where to shop. “Low prices are expected now, so it’s product range, customer service and convenience that’s becoming more important to shoppers,” he said. 

Watkins said: “With supermarkets looking to capture a bigger share of away-from-home purchasing, we can expect many of the trends we have seen in the last few weeks to continue throughout the summer. The World Cup in June should be another chance to attract more visits and to boost shopper spend.”  

Table: 12-weekly % share of grocery market spend by retailer and value sales % change

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The figures in the table are based on 12 weeks sales through to 19 May 2018 compared with the same 12 week period in 2017

Source: Nielsen Total Till, Nielsen Homescan. Includes an annual universe update at June 2016.

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