COVID-19 Essential Items Tracker: UK shoppers resume stocking up on toilet paper, kitchen roll and face tissue as lockdown extends


Toilet paper, kitchen roll and face tissue were the top three most unavailable products across major UK supermarkets in the last week ending 19 April 2020, with an average of 41.3% of items out of stock across the week, reveals new insight from analysts at Edge by Ascential. This follows a second wave of ‘stockpiling’ essential items, as the UK lockdown has extended for another three weeks.

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.

The most recent data from Edge by Ascential reveals that the demand for popular stockpiling items has resumed, with the top food items going out of stock in the last week (w/e 19 April 2020) being shelf-stable products such as tinned pasta (35%), rice (33.6%) and dry pasta (30%). This was most noticeable in Tesco, which had the biggest rise in unavailability, particularly within dry pasta, rising from 22.3% out of stock to 46.4% by the end of the week.

However, whilst many UK supermarkets such as Tesco experienced a decline in popular shelf-stable food, online grocery retailer Ocado experienced the greatest unavailability in frozen foods (7.2%). This was across most sub-categories including frozen meat and poultry (7.2%), frozen potatoes (8.7%) and ice cream (9.1%).

Analysts at Edge by Ascential have also observed the following changes in the last week ending 19th April:

  • Ocado, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose have all seen rising levels of out of stock products by an average of 3.2% in the last week.
  • Toilet paper was the most unavailable product at Tesco (24.3% in stock) compared to its levels across Morrisons, Ocado, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose (average of 50.4%).
  • However, toilet paper (13.1%) and kitchen rolls (26.7%) were the most replenished stock at Sainsbury’s.
  • At Morrisons, the categories that had the most noticeable falls in out of stocks were dry pasta (-23.5%), rice (-7.5%) and tinned and jarred products (-10.3%).

Chris Elliott, insight manager at Edge by Ascential, said: “Stock levels across the supermarkets started to stabilise over the last few weeks, with some retailers relaxing restrictions and consumers even opting to spend on other items aside from the necessities, such as Easter eggs, which we saw last week. However, it seems that consumers are now running low in essential items that they had stockpiled several weeks ago, such as toilet roll and dry pasta, but could also be a response to the ‘lockdown’ being recently extended for at least another three weeks. However, retailers are now more prepared to handle increased demand, and many have also improved in their ability to replenish these items with ease.”