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UK grocery sales surge as Britons shop online, locally during lockdown

LONDON (Reuters) - Grocery sales in Britain surged 18.9% in the four weeks to June 14, driven by the popularity of online and convenience stores during the coronavirus lockdown, industry data showed on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: Easter eggs are seen in a Tesco supermarket in Hemel Hempstead, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, Hemel Hempstead, Britain, April 8, 2020. REUTERS/Paul Childs

Online sales rose 91% year-on-year over the four weeks, market researcher Kantar said, reflecting a change in behaviour with nearly one in five British households now buying over the internet.

Convenience stores, be they independent retailers or the smaller formats of major supermarket groups such as Tesco Express TSCO.L or Sainsbury's Local SBRY.L, accounted for 14.7% of all sales in the four week period, Kantar said.

Rival market researcher Nielsen also highlighted the strong performance of convenience stores.

“We’re still shopping less frequently but shoppers are gradually changing their behaviour,” said Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar.

He noted that households made 77 million fewer trips to the supermarket in the latest four weeks compared with last year - 19 million more than in May, reflecting the slight easing of government restrictions.

Kantar said online grocer Ocado OCDO.L, the Co-operative Group 42TE.L, which has a network of local stores, and frozen food specialist Iceland, were the standout performers over the 12 weeks to June 14 with year-on-year sales growth of 42.2%, 34.5% and 31.4% respectively.

Of Britain's four major grocers, Kantar said market leader Tesco was the strongest performer with growth of 12.1%, followed by No. 4 Morrisons MRW.L on 10.5% and No. 2 Sainsbury's on 10.2%. Walmart-owned WMT.N Asda was again the laggard with growth of 6.3%.

As was the case in May, German-owned discounter Aldi lost market share. It fell to 7.5% from 7.9% this time last year. However, rival discounter Lidl saw its share edge up to 5.8%.

Kantar said UK grocery inflation was 4.0% for the 12-week period, with prices rising fastest in markets such as bacon, sausages and cooked meats while falling in poultry, bread and eggs.

Reporting by James Davey, Editing by Paul Sandle and Susan Fenton

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