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Tuesday 5 December 2023 Dublin: 4°C Customers queuing outside Tesco Ardkeen in Waterford City in March.

Online grocery sales are booming but an 'increased sense of security' is driving us back into supermarkets

Online grocery sales grew by nearly 122% in August.

IRISH GROCERY SHOPPERS are returning to more normal spending habits even as the popularity of online shopping continues to grow.

During the 12 weeks to 6 September, people visited supermarkets more often than they did in the 12 weeks up to June, according to the latest figures from data insights company Kantar.

At the same time, take-home sales growth in Ireland slowed to 13.7% year on year. It means that people are shopping much more than they did pre-pandemic but the rate of increase is beginning to slow down.

Emer Healy, a retail analyst with Kantar, explains, “Grocery sales over the past 12 weeks remain significantly higher than pre-pandemic levels but compared with April and May shopping, routines are much closer to what we would usually expect.

“People are visiting grocery stores more frequently than they have since June, at an average of 19 times over the course of the past four weeks, indicating an increased sense of security among shoppers since face coverings were introduced at the start of August.”

At the same time, the boom in online sales has continued apace, growing by nearly 122% from the start of August to 6 September. 

In this market, SuperValu continues to grow ahead of its competitors and holds the biggest share of spending at 22.1%, while Tesco commands a 21% market share.

Healy says, “This represents another month of record-breaking growth for the online channel and digital sales added €72.9 million to the total market in the latest 12 weeks. 

“New shoppers accounted for almost a quarter of the €133.6 million spent on online groceries during that time.”

Separately, the data reveals that a €19 million increase in grocery spending in August coincided with the imposition of local lockdowns in Kildare, Offaly and Laois as people stocked up.

With Dublin entering Level 3 of the government’s new plan and the prospect of other local lockdowns a possibility in the near-future, Kantar believes the market could accelerate again in the short term.

“An additional €19 million spent on groceries during the past month coincides with the start of a number of local lockdowns.  This suggests that local restrictions are already making their mark — with people in certain parts of the country spending more to stock up on food and drink to consume at home,” Healy explains.

In Dublin, which has seen the strongest growth in all regions in the past six weeks, shoppers spent an additional €141 million on groceries compared with last year.

Healy says, “It will be interesting to see what effect the local lockdown could have on grocery sales as shoppers navigate new restrictions.”

Overall, Kantar says that retailers have benefited from the reopening of schools in September.

While sales of certain school lunch staples like yoghurts drinks and juices increased by 11% in the period, Healy says that “one marked difference this year is that facial tissues and wipes have become a must-have for children’s backpacks, growing by 2% and 15% respectively.” 

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