British grocery sales fall on anniversary of start of pandemic

    LONDON, March 30 (Reuters) - British grocery sales fell 3%
year-on-year in the four weeks to March 21 as supermarkets
annualised the period just before the country's first COVID-19
lockdown, industry data showed on Tuesday.
    Market researcher Kantar said the outcome compared to growth
of 15.1% in its last monthly report.
    This time last year, Britons were adjusting to schools and
offices closing and making extra trips to the supermarket to
fill their cupboards for lockdown.
    "To put that into context, shoppers made 117 million fewer
trips to the supermarket this month compared with those fraught
weeks in March 2020," said Fraser McKevitt, Kantar's head of
retail and consumer insight.
    Grocery spending remains considerably higher than
pre-pandemic levels though.
    Kantar said online grocery growth slowed in the four week
    "Online sales were 89% higher than this time last year,
which is still impressive, but the channel's share of the market
dropped back to 14.5% from the record of 15.4% in February
2021," said McKevitt.
    He noted that 143,000 fewer over-65s, a sector of the UK
population now largely vaccinated, made digital orders in March.

    In the 12 weeks to March 21, Morrisons, Britain's
No. 4 grocer, was again the best performer of the country's four
major supermarket groups with sales growth of 8.7%.
    Sales growth at market leader Tesco was 8.5%,
followed by No. 3 Asda with growth of 7.6% and No. 2 Sainsbury's
 with growth of 7.3%.
    German-owned discounters Aldi and Lidl again lost market
share with sales growth of 1.5% and 2.9% respectively.
    Kantar said grocery inflation over the 12-week period was
    It said prices are rising fastest in markets such as canned
colas, chilled fruit juices and chilled desserts while falling
in bacon, beef and vegetables.
 Market share and sales growth (%)
                  12 wks to     12 wks to     pct change
                  March 21,     March 22,     in sales
                  2021          2020          
 Tesco            27.1          26.8          8.5
 Sainsbury's      15.3          15.3          7.3
 Asda             15.1          15.0          7.6
 Morrisons        10.1          10.0          8.7
 Aldi             7.8           8.2           1.5
 Co-operative     6.2           6.2           7.1
 Lidl             5.8           6.1           2.9
 Waitrose         4.9           5.0           5.1
 Ocado            1.9           1.5           33.9
 Iceland          2.3           2.2           14.3
 Source: Kantar

 (Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Aurora Ellis)