Coronavirus stockpiling behind Northern Ireland supermarket sales boost of £60m

Northern Ireland supermarket sales soared during March as shoppers stockpiled goods like toilet roll and soap at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, figures show.

he report by information company Kantar said there was over £800m spent on groceries here in the 12 weeks to March 22, an increase of more than £60m.

And Lidl, which has 39 stores here, reported the fastest-growing sales over the year to March 22, with the German discounter adding 7.7% in sales, bringing it to a market share of 6.2%.

Tesco, with around 50 stores, remained the top grocer, adding 2.9% in sales over the 52 weeks and growing its market share to 35.6%. Sales at Sainsbury’s 14 stores also grew, by 1.2%, though its market share was down slightly at 17.1%.

But a slump of 1.9% left Asda the only one of the big four here not to increase sales over the year to March 22, while its market share went from 17% to 16.3%.

Such was the urge to stockpile around the middle of March, that supermarkets introduced separate shopping hours for older people – with an Iceland supermarket leading the way.

David Berry, managing director for Ireland at Kantar, said “The Northern Irish grocery market is starting to feel the effect of the coronavirus pandemic. Overall sales growth of 1.9% during the 52 weeks to March 22 is markedly higher than the 0.1% seen last month, showing how Covid-19 has altered shopper behaviour.

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“While growth over the 52-week ending period may sound relatively modest, the true impact can be seen when looking at a shorter, 12-week ending time frame. Sales over the 12-week period grew by 8.3% compared with the same time last year, as shoppers spent more than £800m on groceries.

“This represents the second highest 12-week sales number on record and an increase of more than £60m year on year. Shoppers have understandably been keen to make sure they have good supplies of hygiene and cleaning products as they prepare to spend more time indoors.

“Sales of hand soap rose by 60% over the past 12 weeks while facial tissues and toilet roll grew by 37% and 30% respectively.

“Household cleaners were also up by almost a third as people sought to temper the spread of the virus and maybe to fit in some spring cleaning as well.

“Tesco, Northern Ireland’s largest retailer, enjoyed the greatest increase in market share, up by 0.4 percentage points to 35.6%. Meanwhile, Lidl posted the strongest increase in sales, with shoppers spending 7.7% more in store.”

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