Online grocery sales doubled in December 2020

The online share of grocery sales at UK supermarkets doubled to 12.5% in the last four weeks ending  December 26, 2020. This is up from online’s 6.7% share of sales during the same time in 2019, in what was the biggest December on record, reveals new data released by Nielsen.

This rise is due to a total of 8.5million households, just over 30% of all households, shopping for their Christmas groceries online, an increase from 5.7million households over the Christmas period in 2019.

While visits to stores declined by 10%, overall and including online, shoppers increased their spend per visit to an average of £20, up from £17 a year ago, the biggest ever spend per visit during the Christmas period, and only slightly lower than the all-time high of £22 recorded at the height of the lockdown in May. 

Nielsen data shows that in the four weeks ending December 26, a total of almost £12billion was spent at UK supermarkets, with £1.3billion spent online. However, with the closure of hospitality venues, and additional pandemic restrictions signposted mid-December, households planned for smaller family celebrations this Christmas, all which may have held back some spend in the final two weeks leading up to December 24.

Covid-19 restrictions also impacting social gatherings and large family celebrations, purchasing fell heavily on the immediate family and not extended family and friends, as many consumers took the opportunity to enjoy a less traditional Christmas meal.

Beer, wine and spirits was the fastest growing category overall and traditional indulgences were still popular with consumers, with sales up for Champagne (+18%) and crémant sparkling wine (+51%). Many consumers also marked the festivities by experimenting with cocktail making, with a significant increase in sales for tequila (+59%), flavoured vodka (+50%) and spiced rum (+47%).

In terms of retailer performance over the last 12 weeks ending December 26, Lidl led the growth (+20.9%) followed by Morrisons (+9.2%) which led growth among the ‘big four’ retailers. 

Mike Watkins, Nielsen’s UK Head of Retailer and Business Insight, said: “2020 marks the first Christmas where online shopping played a significant role in consumers’ shopping behaviours, with 85% of the incremental sales in food and drink made online in the last four weeks ending 26th December. Although overall grocery growth was a little lower than in November, this takes into account the many challenges consumers faced around restrictions and cancelled Christmas plans.”

Watkins added: “It has certainly been an unusual Christmas for us all, and this has affected purchasing decisions. The pandemic has changed how we live, shop and consume and despite consumers celebrating the festivities in smaller groups, food and drink remained at the heart of celebrations. With fewer people to entertain and cater for, many households took the opportunity to enjoy less traditional meals.” 

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