COVID-19 latest: shoppers spend €316m on groceries in Ireland

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Shoppers in Ireland spent €316m on groceries in the week ending 8th March 2020, an increase of 2.4% on grocery spend compared to the previous week, and 7.6% versus the same week in 2019, reveals new data released today by Nielsen

This significant rise in grocery sales is attributed to increasing panic buying, amid health fears around the worldwide spread of the coronavirus disease COVID-19, which has already led to the closure of schools, colleges, pubs and a host of cancelled or postponed events, including St Patrick’s Day festivities across the country.

Nielsen data shows that in the last four weeks ending 8th March, household (17%) and health and beauty (15%) saw the biggest increase in sales, compared to the same period last year. These categories have risen by 31% and 35% respectively over the last one week period ending 8th March. Other categories that showed significant sales increase in Ireland included petcare (17%) in the last four weeks, rising by 19% in the last one week. Ambient grocery – shelf-stable food – also grew 10% versus the same four week period in 2019, and 19% in the last one week.

In the latest four weeks ending 8th March, Irish supermarkets saw a significant increase in cupboard staples, including pasta (26%), canned vegetables (25%), rice (9%) packet & tinned soup (22%) and canned beans (17%). Sales of toilet tissue have also risen by 19.1% compared to the same period in 2019.

Baby care is another area in which people are purchasing heavily, with the likes of baby milk (29%), baby food (22%) and disposable nappies (5.4%) all rising in the one week ending 8th March compared to the same time last year.

As expected, many health and hygiene products have continued to experience a surge in sales. This includes hand sanitiser sales, which grew by over 1000% during the one week ending 8th March compared to the same period last year, reaching a peak of €113k. Meanwhile, sales of soap reached €818k in the same week, a 231% increase compared to last year. In the last four weeks, top selling hygiene products include disinfectant liquids (93%), antiseptic (100%) and household and personal cleaning items such as washing up liquid (14%) and household bleach (14%).

However, in the last week to 8th March, fruit and vegetable produce (6.9%), bakery (4.7%), frozen (4.9%), chilled (7.3%), confectionery (5.7%) and alcohol (2.7%) all appear to be growing slower than the rest of the market in Ireland, due to the extreme over performance of other categories. Yet, it is likely that we will start to see stronger growth in these categories in the coming weeks as people will have plentiful supply of pantry necessities, and may resume purchasing some luxury items.

Karen Mooney, Ireland market leader at Nielsen, said: “The declaration by the World Health Organisation on 11th March that COVID-19 is now classified as a pandemic, and the announcement from the Irish government that schools and colleges will be closed until at least 29th March, led to panic buying and stockpiling across the country. Retailers in Ireland are seeing an unprecedented rise in sales of grocery items, as consumers look to stock up on products amid the country’s lockdown. 

Mooney continues: “Panic buying appears to be at its height, with many retailers now implementing buying restrictions on pr