According to data from consultants Nielsen, shoppers made almost 80 million extra trips to supermarkets in the four weeks to 21 March before the government introduced its ‘lockdown’.

As a result, consumers spent an additional £1.9bn on groceries, driving a 20% increase in overall supermarket sales. In the week ending 21 March, sales were up a record 43% according to Nielsen.

Over the four-week period, the data suggests market leader Tesco (TSCO) increased sales by 20.1%, second-placed Sainsbury’s (SBRY) by 22.4%, Morrisons (MRW) by 19.3% and Asda by 17.2%.


Despite scenes of shelves stripped bare, the average shopping basket only increased by one extra item and the average value increased from £15 to £16.

However, this small change in our shopping behaviour has led to ‘a seismic change in overall shopping patterns’ according Mike Watkins, Nielsen’s head of retail insight.

‘As well as increased store visits, consumers opted to shop online - many for the first time. However, unlike stores there is a finite capacity for online grocery shopping, due to warehouse capacity and available delivery slots, and this will have limited the growth of online sales.’

Online retailer Ocado (OCDO) found itself overwhelmed by the surge in demand and had to close its website and its app at one point in order to prioritise existing orders and delivery slots.

Analyst Clive Black at Shore Capital described the pattern of spending as follows: ‘Week one was characterised by a step-up in demand for health and household goods, week two was all about ambient grocery and our love for dried pasta, and week three was an across-the-board purge of the aisles.’

The Nielsen data highlights a more than 80% surge in sales of frozen foods in the week ending 21 March as shoppers who had already filled their cupboards moved on to filling their freezers.

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Issue Date: 31 Mar 2020