Supermarket sales slowed last month as spending habits returned to normal after pandemic restrictions.
Households are tightening their purse strings after the first tranche of higher bills hit budgets this spring while spending habits are also normalising after the easing of lockdown restrictions.
Shoppers added slightly fewer items to their baskets over the last four weeks, with 11.2 items compared to 11.5 in March, according to NielsenIQ’s latest data.
Total till grocery sales at UK supermarkets fell last month, down 1.8 per cent year on year over the last four weeks to 23 April.
Sales have improved on March’s figures, which were down 4.1 per cent, after the sector moved on from comparatives to lockdown when supermarkets benefited from the closure of hospitality.
Shoppers coughed up some £10.1bn on groceries in the past week, a drop from £10.5bn in the same period in 2021.
With workers returning to offices and restaurants reopening, spending habits have started to settle back to pre-pandemic normality. Sales ranked higher than the £9.6bn recorded during the same period in 2019.
Sales for beers, wines and spirits fell 15.9 per cent last month while meat, fish and poultry sales declined 7.8 per cent.
Analysts speculated that falls in these categories were due to shoppers attempting to save money on their grocery spend.
Discount retailers further gained market share as shoppers looked for the best deals on their weekly shop, with Aldi and Lidl leading the market for growth. Aldi gained 6.4 per cent while rival Lidl gained 9.1 per cent.
According to the latest data from retail insights firm Kantar, grocery price inflation now stands at the highest level in more than a decade.
Households are facing an additional £271 to their grocery bill, as price inflation has hit the highest level since December 2011.
Although sales this year are subdued, they are still above levels recorded pre-pandemic in 2019, and indicates the start of normal shopping behaviours returning, which now includes a wider choice of where to shop: online, in store or a mix of the two,” Mike Watkins, NielsenIQ’s UK head of retailer and business insight, said.
Promotional spend has increased to 21.5 per cent of value sales, which Watkins said could “herald the start of more pricing activity in the weeks ahead,” as well as seasonal promotions around Easter.
“With this in mind, it will be important for retailers and brands to adapt ranges and prices to help maintain sales momentum in [the second quarter] and into the start of summer,” he added.
The latest figures come as a Cabinet minister suggested on Wednesday that Brits worried about their finances should opt for value brands
“Generally speaking, what people find is by going for some of the value brands rather than own-branded products – they can actually contain and manage their household budget,” environment secretary George Eustice told Sky News.
The big four supermarkets – Tesco, Asda, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s – were “competing very aggressively” on prices, particularly with “lower-cost, everyday value items for households,”
“Where it gets harder is on things like chicken and poultry, and some fresh produce, where those increased feed costs do end up getting passed through the system because these people work on wafer-thin margins and they have to pass that cost through,” he added.
The comments were lambasted by Labour, with shadow Treasury minister, Pat McFadden, dubbing them as “woefully out of touch from a government with no solution to the cost-of-living crisis facing working people”.
“People are seeing their wages fall, fuel and food costs rise, and families are worried about how to make ends meet,” McFadden added.