Total till sales remain in decline due to online pandemic comparatives, Nielsen reports

Total Till sales at UK supermarkets fell -4.1% in the last four weeks ending 26th March, the lowest sales growth so far recorded in 2022. However, this is the final figure measuring sales growth against the high lockdown comparatives, indicating a potential return to growth post Easter and into the spring, reveals new data released today by NielsenIQ.

Data from NielsenIQ reveals that online sales fell 19% compared with the same period last year,  while sales at brick-and-mortar stores fell by 0.6% . However, this is in line with expectations given the lockdown comparatives last year, where online sales surged 92%, and is an indication that the normalisation of post-pandemic shopping behaviours is almost complete. NielsenIQ data shows that store visits rose 5% over the last four weeks, and the overall online share of sales has stabilised at 12.4% having been 14.8% this time last year.

Similarly, spend per visit across all channels is unchanged at £18.52 in March (£18.50 in February), while promotional spend on offers also remains unchanged at 20% of sales purchased.

Amid concerns about inflation and the cost of living, NielsenIQ data also shows that in the last four weeks ending 26th March, UK shoppers have been shifting spend towards supermarket private label products. The share of sales for FMCG private label products has risen from 52.4% to 53.2% compared to a year ago with sales of branded FMCG products declining -5.1% whilst overall sales of private label products are down just -1.9%.

Moreover, sales of private label products in the ambient (shelf-stable food) grocery category increased by 3.3% in the last four weeks; a significant change in a category where brands dominate with 61% share of total sales 1.

In terms of category performance, beers, wines and spirits (-17.6%) and confectionery (-21.9%) experienced the steepest declines in sales against last year. For confectionery this is likely due to Easter being 2 weeks earlier in 2021. Meanwhile, pet food and pet care (+12.7%) and health and beauty (+11.8%) experienced the fastest growth as shoppers return to pre-pandemic behaviour.2

In the last 12 weeks, Marks & Spencer (+9.4%) experienced the fastest growth, followed by discounters Lidl (+8.6%) and Aldi (+5.6%) and these were the only retailers to gain market share.

Mike Watkins, NielsenIQ UK head of retailer and business insight said: “As we leave behind the pandemic, it`s clear that shoppers are re-evaluating what they spend. Whilst some of the changes in  grocery spend will be due to consumers simply having a different basket mix compared with last year, our data also shows that consumers are now increasingly shopping for private label products as part of their coping strategy”.

Watkins continues: “We are therefore beginning to see three trends emerge. The first will be more spending on private label products as this still gives shoppers choice, from economy products through to premium. We’ll also see an increase in ‘trading down’ of products as shoppers seek to make more savings. Finally, we’d anticipate an overall shift of spend to retailers that are perceived to offer value for money. This will not only be discounters like Aldi or Lidl or other value retailers such as Poundland, Home Bargains and B&M but any supermarket with a strong price message, for example retailers offering differential price discounts for users of loyalty apps, reward threshold vouchers or fuel vouchers”.

Watkins concludes: “Whilst saving money on discretionary areas such as clothing and eating out are some of the immediate ways that households will economise, this does suggest there could be some impact on grocery shopping as the cost-of-living squeeze accelerates during Q2.”

Table: 12-weekly % share of grocery market spend by retailer and value sales % change