Shoppers continue to hold back grocery spend amid extended Brexit uncertainty
Woman in grocery store along with her son

Shoppers continue to hold back grocery spend amid extended Brexit uncertainty

Consumer spending in the grocery sector has continued to slow for the third consecutive month, with sales up +1.2% in the last four weeks, below the CPI rate of +1.9%, and compared to +2.5% this time last month.

This continued slowdown in spend can be attributed to several factors, including the increased costs of living from rises in energy and fuel prices to the upcoming increase in council tax. Extended uncertainty over Brexit negotiations also appears to be causing shoppers to tighten their grocery budgets.

As consumers look to manage their grocery spend, they are choosing to spend less at the ‘big four’ supermarket chains (Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Asda). This has contributed to a rise in sales at the discounters Aldi and Lidl, whose combined market share in the last 12 weeks amounted to a high of 16%.

The first quarter of 2019 has shown a continued slowdown in consumer spending on grocery, with the average household spend each week on groceries amounting to £71*, back to the level last seen in October 2017 (excluding March 2018, where sales were stronger due to the ‘Beast from the East’ which caused people to stock up, and an early Easter). This means that grocery spend remains broadly unchanged in the last 18 months despite inflation and we’re seeing a change in shopping behaviour as well as a shift in sentiment as households shop around to make savings.

In the last 12 weeks, the combined market share of the top four supermarkets was 64.1%, compared with 65.6% last year.

We can see that the last few weeks have continued to be challenging for retailers. However, there should be brighter times ahead, with Easter on the horizon bringing attractive seasonal promotions to encourage shoppers to spend more on confectionery, snacks and drinks. If this is accompanied by warm spring weather and more clarity over the status of Brexit, this will help to kick-start growth for the big supermarkets and boost sales in time for summer.

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


All figures are from Nielsen Homescan Total Till unless otherwise stated.
*Source: Nielsen Homescan FMCG

About Nielsen Homescan Total Till

The Nielsen continuous 15,000 GB household panel is geo-demographically balanced and designed to measure household purchasing through a wide range of channels. It includes all food and drink and non-food spend (e.g. household, personal care, clothing, electrical, cards and stationery, toys, music, general merchandise, etc.) It represents the total amount paid (after all coupons and vouchers), found on the till receipt.

About Nielsen

Nielsen Holdings plc (NYSE: NLSN) is a global measurement and data analytics company that provides the most complete and trusted view available of consumers and markets worldwide. Our approach marries proprietary Nielsen data with other data sources to help clients around the world understand what’s happening now, what’s happening next, and how to best act on this knowledge. For more than 90 years Nielsen has provided data and analytics based on scientific rigor and innovation, continually developing new ways to answer the most important questions facing the media, advertising, retail and fast-moving consumer goods industries. An S&P 500 company, Nielsen has operations in over 100 countries, covering more than 90% of the world’s population. For more information, visit