Supermarket sales soar during July heatwave, latest Nielsen data shows

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The July heatwave contributed to sales growth rates almost twice that achieved by the UK’s leading supermarkets during the London 2012 Games – one of last year’s peak sales periods – according to the latest retailer performance figures released today by global information and insights company Nielsen. 

Aggregate sales value growth for the UK’s leading supermarkets during the four weeks ending 20 July 2013 was +6.4 year-on-year – a rate comfortably ahead of any ‘non-event’ four week period in the last two years. For the previous four-week period (ending 22 June 2013), year-on-year sales value growth was up +2.3%. 

Unit sales (volume) increased +3.0% year-on-year, compared to +0.1% year-on-year during the previous four weeks.

Nielsen’s UK head of retailer and business insight Mike Watkins: “The supermarkets basked in the heat and in growth levels not seen for some time, as shoppers stocked up on fresh foods and refreshments. The increased visits and incremental spend was enough to compensate for the weaker performance of ambient grocery and household.”

Soft drinks and alcohol experience biggest growth in sales

The strongest category growths were in soft drinks (+27% value year-on-year), beers, wines & spirits (+16%, driven by Cider and Lager) and Frozen (+14%), helped in particular by ice cream and desserts. 

Watkins said: “At the height of the heat wave, the week ending 13 July 2013, an extra seven Olympic swimming pools worth of bottled water were sold compared to the first two weeks  of July 2012 – worth an extra £15m. Consequently, bottled water overtook Cola as the largest soft drink sector by volume.” 

Produce (+11%), chilled delicatessen food (meats, cheese) and crisps/snacks also experienced strong growths (both +9%). With outdoor living back on the agenda, general merchandise (+3.5%) also benefited from the good weather.

However, not all categories benefited from the heat wave, with shoppers preferring refreshment to buying ambient food or larder stocking. Packaged grocery (-2.7%), confectionery (-2.5%) and household (-1.8%) all saw falling sales compared to the same period a year ago.

Aldi, Waitrose and Lidl maximise the heat wave opportunity

Among the 10 leading UK supermarkets, Aldi saw the greatest increase in sales in the 12 weeks ending July 20 (+28.8% value year-on-year) followed by Waitrose (+11.5%), Lidl (+8.7%) and M&S (+8.6%). 

Watkins said: “Waitrose and M&S, in particular, benefited from shoppers’ appetite for fresh foods in July, as did Sainsbury’s, who also increased market share in the last four weeks. Aldi’s momentum continued, both in attracting new shoppers and significantly increasing spend per visit.

“More frequent visits to local neighbourhood stores also helped boost sales at Co-operatives in the last four weeks. Tesco and Asda, with a mix of store formats and online, had solid topline growths, however, they didn’t benefit as much from the surge in spend that the summer weather delivered for some other retailers.”

 12 weekly share of spend by supermarket