Early signs of optimism as Irish shoppers return to stores

Over 65s are leading the return to more frequent store visits



4 May 2021

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Grocery market growth in Ireland slowed to 1.9% in the 12 weeks ending 18 April, according to the latest figures from Kantar. In the most recent four weeks, sales declined by 3.3% compared with the same period last year – a time when Irish shoppers were preparing for the first national lockdown and bigger shopping trips generated record-breaking sales for the supermarkets.

“It’s hard to believe that we’ve been living with restrictions for over a year now, and it means grocery market growth will fluctuate in the coming months as we compare sales against the different stages of lockdown in 2020,” said Emer Healy, retail analyst at Kantar. “Growth may have dipped year on year in April, but we’re still some way from normal and take-home grocery spending remains an incredible 19.4% higher than pre-pandemic levels. With restrictions still firmly in place and most of us eating all our meals at home, the average household grocery bill was €245.10 higher in past 12 weeks than in 2019.”

While Ireland remains in lockdown, there are signs of growing consumer confidence this month. “As the vaccine rollout continues, Irish shoppers are beginning to venture out more and they visited the supermarket an additional 3,992,538 times in the past four weeks compared with this time last year,” Healy added. “This is the most shopping trips in a month since March 2020. The mostly vaccinated over 65s are leading the return and increased their visits to bricks-and-mortar stores by 13.7% compared with this time last year – ahead of the national rate of 8.9%.”

As people return to physical stores, the boom in online grocery shopping has started to soften.  “Online grocery sales grew by 29.3% in the past four weeks,” Healy said. “While still high, that’s the slowest rate in a year as people added slightly fewer items to their digital orders and felt more comfortable popping to the shops to top up their cupboards.

“It’s clear that people are itching to get out and about and visit stores again, but that doesn’t mean completely waving goodbye to their new online shopping routines anytime soon. Online grocery accounted for 5.6% of sales in the past 12 weeks – a significant jump from the pre-pandemic level of 2.5% – and 16.5% of Irish households placed an order during this period. With all retailers now offering some form of digital service, either directly or through partnerships with delivery platforms, many shoppers have been converted to the ease of online grocery long term and will continue to balance it with smaller in-store shops in the future.”

Ireland celebrated a second Easter in lockdown this month, with sales of chocolate eggs up by 17.4% compared with 2020. “Some people clearly felt their loved ones deserved a special treat as sales of premium eggs rose by 21.7%,” Healy said. “Although they weren’t able to meet up with friends and family, consumers still made an effort to mark occasions during lockdown, laying on traditional feasts and spending an extra €5.5 million on roast beef and €6.5 million on vegetables.”

SuperValu and Lidl benefited from consumers wanting to treat themselves this month, experiencing significant growth in shops where more than a third of the basket was made up of treats such as alcohol and confectionery. At SuperValu and Lidl these indulgent shops increased by 19% and 21.5% respectively year on year.

SuperValu continued to hold the largest share of the grocery market at 22.5%, its highest level since June. Meanwhile, Tesco’s sales increased by 2.0%, as the grocer attracted new customers through its doors to boost sales by €1.1 million.

Dunnes accounted for 21.1% of grocery sales this period. As new regulations that restrict alcohol promotions through customer loyalty schemes come into force, Dunnes has seen its share of alcohol sales drop by 2.8 percentage points in the past 12 weeks.

Lidl received the most significant boost from people making extra, smaller shops this month. Basket-sized trips increased by 8.8% year on year at the retailer, helping it to achieve the fastest growth this period. Aldi held 12.0% of the market as shoppers continued to pick up additional items in store.



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