Covid-19 Essential Items Tracker: stock levels in Tesco decline; supermarkets ramp up Easter egg promotions; BBQs put on hold


Stock levels in Tesco for essential items like pasta, rice and noodles (5.1%), toilet paper (11.8%) and tinned and jarred products (4.5%) have declined by 2.3% overall in the week ending 12 April, a contrast to the high stock levels a week ago, reveals new insight from analysts at Edge by Ascential. Kitchen towels have seen the largest decrease in availability (21.4%), with rice (13.3%), toilet paper (11.8%) and tinned veg (10.7%) also witnessing a decline.

Moreover, insight from Edge by Ascential found that UK supermarkets experienced a significant decline in stock levels of Easter eggs in the week ending 12th April 2020, with unavailability peaking at 52% during this week, 15% higher than Easter Sunday in 2019. Edge by Ascential also found that in the week ending 12th April – the week before Easter Sunday – supermarkets promoted 63% of their Easter confectionery range, compared to just 40% in 2019. Morrisons and Ocado were the retailers most affected by low stock levels, both retailers having an average of 90% and 83% out of stock respectively during this week. 

Analysts at Edge by Ascential have regularly monitored the online stock levels at major UK supermarkets, following the rising ‘stockpiling’ trends among UK consumers, which have been sparked by the health fears around the worldwide spread of the COVID-19 virus, in which British consumers have been instructed by the government to remain at home in ‘lockdown’ in a bid to control the spread.

Edge by Ascential data also reveals that in the week ending 12th April, the forecasted warm weather over the Easter weekend did not have a significant impact on stock levels for BBQ-related food and drink, with availability decreasing across chilled burgers (1.6%), sausages (1.3%) and alcohol such as beers, lager and cider (1.4%) and white (1.4%) and red wine (1.3%). However, there was a slight increase in demand for frozen burgers and meatballs, which saw a peak in unavailable products between 7 and 10 April where almost 25% of the category was out of stock across retailers.

In the last week ending 12 April, data from Edge by Ascential reveals that stock levels across retailers have increasingly become stable compared to the last few weeks, which were heavily impacted by stockpiling. However, the rising stock levels are not consistent across specific categories in all supermarkets.

Analysts at Edge by Ascential have observed the following changes in the last week ending 12th April:

  • Unavailability in Waitrose fell by more than 5% in the last six days, with stock increasing in coffee and frozen foods in particular.
  • Cereal and kitchen towels were the most replenished products across most retailers over the week, noticeably for Morrisons, Tesco and Waitrose (where 20% of cereals came back in stock).
  • Key shelf-stable food products such as baked beans, dry pasta and tinned pasta continued to see rising levels of unavailability since the end of last week.

Chris Elliott, insight manager at Edge by Ascential, said: “Easter eggs appear to have been flying off the shelves this year. This is partly due to lower stock levels across supermarkets, as they focus on stocking shelves with more high in demand items. However, we’ve also noticed that there have been significantly more promotions around these items than in 2019. With shoppers encouraged to go out less and only visit stores for necessities, there is less time for them to browse as well as buy impulsively. This has meant that extra promotions have been needed in order to clear stock during these trying times.

“The warm weather over the Bank Holiday weekend could have also tempted shoppers to spend more on food and drink, as they celebrated outside with barbeques in the garden. However, there has not been a significant rise in demand for barbeque-related items, as stock levels have not moved significantly during this time, apart from frozen foods. Moreover, we have noticed that since the start of the month out of stock barbeque products have grown across Argos, John Lewis, Very and Wickes, peaking at 40% on Saturday 11 April. This might suggest that consumers are stocking up and preparing now, and waiting for a more suitable time to enjoy a barbecue, perhaps with friends and extended family once the lockdown is lifted.”