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Winter Weather Freezes U.K. Grocery Sales
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Winter Weather Freezes U.K. Grocery Sales

Following a robust December, sales in the U.K. grocery retail sector were subdued in January as the expected post-Christmas lull was further depressed as a result of snow that covered much of the country in January.  The grocery sector grew 2.4 percent for the four weeks ending January 23, with grocery multiples faring very slightly better at 2.6 percent.

“The post Christmas hangover was longer and deeper this year with snow and ice disrupting shopping patterns, resulting in fewer shopping trips being made.  Where shoppers did carry on shopping however, some spending was bought forward into the week ending 9th January as consumers stockpiled.   As a result, sales in the following 2 weeks were more subdued.  Many seasonal lines also came off promotion and this would have impacted sales.  Retailers will need to encourage shoppers to keep spending over the next few weeks to lift momentum,” said Mike Watkins, senior manager retailer services at Nielsen.

“The ‘big freeze’ has highlighted some unusual shopping trends: in the 3 weeks ending January 16, sales of salt increased 128 percent overall and 185 percent in convenience stores.  Cat litter was widely recommended as an alternative to grit and sales of this jumped 31 percent during the snowy weeks.  Meanwhile, sales of basics like tea (+10%), coffee (+8%) and soup (+16%) also grew as shoppers stocked up and battened down the hatches.  Convenience stores also benefited from shoppers and commuters staying at home and treating themselves to breakfast.  Sales of eggs were up 33 percent, bacon up 24 percent, sausages up 33 percent and hot cereals up 39 percent.  And rather heartwarmingly, we looked after our wildlife – sales of bird food shot up 73 percent,” said Watkins.

12-Weeks to January 23, 2010 Share of Grocery Market Spend by Retailer and Value Sales % Change

Retailer 12 w/e 1/24/09 12 w/e 1/23/10 Value Sales % Change
Tesco 27.9% 28.1% 5.3%
Asda 15.9% 16.1% 5.4%
Sainsbury’s 14.7% 14.9% 6.1%
Morrisons 10.7% 11.2% 10.1%
Co-op & S’field 8.8% 7.7% -8.1%
Co-op 5.6% 5.9% 10.7%
Somerfield 3.2% 1.8% -40.6%
Waitrose 3.5% 3.8% 14.2%
M&S 4.1% 4.1% 2.9%
Iceland 1.9% 1.9% 7.9%
Source: The Nielsen Company