Britain's COVID vaccine rollout drives return to supermarkets

    LONDON, May 25 (Reuters) - British shoppers are heading out
to the supermarket more often as the country's COVID-19
vaccination programme gathers pace, industry data showed on
    Market researcher Kantar said shoppers made 58 million more
visits to the supermarket in the 12 weeks to May 16 than they
did in the same period last year when Britain was in the grip of
the first wave of the virus.
    “As the vaccine rollout moves full steam ahead, consumers
are getting more confident venturing back out to stores," said 
Fraser McKevitt, Kantar's head of retail and consumer insight.
    As of Monday over 38 million Britons had received a first
dose of a vaccination.
    Kantar said there were also signs that the big weekly shop,
which made a comeback last year when Britons tried to reduce the
time spent outside of their homes, may be on its way out.
    It said average basket size fell for the third month in a
row to 22.82 pounds ($32.31), the lowest since March last year.
    The proportion of supermarket sales made online, another
hallmark of shopping habits last year, remained much higher than
2019 levels but fell back from 13.9% in April to 13.4% in the
latest month.
    Kantar said overall grocery sales fell 0.4% year-on-year
over the 12-week period, reflecting a tough comparison with
exceptionally high sales during the first three months of the
pandemic in 2020. Compared to the same period in 2019 sales were
up 13.9%.
    "Many of us this time last year were eating all our meals at
home and we bought extra food and drink as a result. Now we’re
seeing take-home grocery sales dip versus 2020 as people are
able to eat in restaurants, pubs and cafés and can pick up food
on the go again," said McKevitt.
    Of Britain's big four supermarket groups, Asda was the best
performer with sales up 1.9% year-on-year. Market leader Tesco's
 sales were flat, while Sainsbury's was up 0.7%
and Morrisons was up 0.3%.
    Kantar said grocery prices fell 1.2% over the 12 week
period, the fastest fall since August 2016.
    Prices are rising fastest in segments such as chocolate
confectionery, savoury snacks and canned colas while falling in
bacon, toilet tissue and vegetables.
 Market share and sales (% change)
                  12 wks to     12 wks to     % change in
                  May 16, 2021  May 17, 2020  sales
 Tesco            27.0          26.9          0
 Sainsbury's      15.1          15.0          0.7
 Asda             14.4          14.1          1.9
 Morrisons        10.0          9.9           0.3
 Aldi             8.1           7.7           5.2
 Co-operative     6.2           7.0           -12.1
 Lidl             6.2           5.9           4.6
 Waitrose         5.1           5.0           2.1
 Iceland          2.3           2.4           -5.3
 Ocado            1.8           1.6           15.4
 Source: Kantar

($1 = 0.7064 pounds)

 (Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Toby Chopra)