Britain's grocery sales growth slows as lockdown eased

FILE PHOTO: People follow social distancing rules as they queue outside an Asda supermarket as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continued, in Northwich, Britain, March 27, 2020. REUTERS/Molly Darlington/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - Grocery sales in Britain rose 10% year-on-year in the four weeks to July 11, slowing from previous weeks as COVID-19 restrictions were eased to allow hospitality and leisure outlets to reopen in England, industry data showed on Tuesday.

Market researcher Nielsen said the growth was down from 14% in last month’s report. The government allowed pubs, cafes and restaurants in England to reopen on July 4, giving people an alternative to eating at home.

Nielsen said online grocery purchases leapt 115% year-on-year, accounting for a record 14% of all grocery spending in the United Kingdom.

Morrisons MRW.L was the best performer of Britain's so-called "big four" supermarket groups in the 12 weeks to July 11, with sales growth of 15.7%, followed by market leader Tesco TSCO.L with growth of 12% and No. 2 Sainsbury's SBRY.L with growth of 10.2%. Walmart WMT.N owned Asda was again the laggard with growth of 8.7%.

The big four’s growth was dwarfed by Iceland, whose sales surged 30.4% as shoppers bought more frozen food.

German-owned discounters Aldi and Lidl saw a marginal loss of market share, partly reflecting their lack of a major online offer.

Looking at the full 16 week UK lockdown period, Nielsen said shoppers spent a total of 49 billion pounds ($62 billion) on groceries, tobacco and general merchandise - an extra 3.2 billion pounds compared with the same period last year.

Shopping habits also changed, with the number of visits down but the amount spent on each visit up. Also of the incremental spend, 47% of it was made at convenience stores, Nielsen found.

Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Mark Potter