Grocery sales fall as Covid restrictions loosen, but figures still above 2019 results

Supermarket trips falling 4.5% year on year and amount bought in visit down 0.9%

SuperValu held the largest share of the grocery market this month at 22.3 per cent

SuperValu held the largest share of the grocery market this month at 22.3 per cent


Grocery sales fell slightly in the three months to the start of October as the loosening of Covid-19 measures resulted in people spending less time in stores.

But Kantar figures showed spending was still higher than the comparative period in 2019, by more than 9 per cent, indicating that the sector was still benefitting from a boom that began when the country locked down.

Year-on-year grocery sales declined 2.2 per cent in the 12 weeks to October 3rd, but that was against a strong period in 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown measures drove higher sales.

Online grocery sales were up 7.1 per cent in the latest four weeks, amounting to an additional €3 million in the market. Any further lifting of restrictions in the coming weeks is not expected to have any significant impact on the market.

“It’s a nuanced picture in the grocery market at the moment. The lifting of social restrictions and high vaccination rates mean shoppers are more comfortable going out and visiting physical stores, but they also mean people’s social calendars are filling up again,” said Emer Healy, retail analyst at Kantar. “More socialising means we’re living less regimented lives, and with more eating at restaurants, pubs and on the go, the reliance which many had on supermarkets to get their meals last year is starting to fade. That is evidenced in the latest four-week ending data, which shows supermarket trips are falling by 4.5 per cent year on year and the amount bought per visit is also down 0.9 per cent.”

The Kantar data also showed an increase in sales of seasonal items such as pumpkins and share bags of chocolate ahead of Halloween.

“People will be making up for lost time with their Halloween festivities this autumn. While there was no celebration in 2020, it looks like spooky season is back with a bang,” said Ms Healy. “ Sales of pumpkins soared 32.1 per cent over the past 12 weeks compared to last year, while sugar confectionery and share bags of chocolate are up 6.4 per cent and 15.3 per cent respectively, as people get ready for trick or treaters.”


However, shoppers are expected to keep a tight watch on shopping bills, with the past 12 weeks seeing the highest levels of inflation in the market since March 2021. Prices are 0.6 per cent higher than a year ago.

Among retailers, SuperValu continues to hold the largest share of the grocery market this month at 22.3 per cent, with Dunnes accounting for 21.9 per cent of grocery sales and Tesco in third place at 21.4 per cent. Dunnes was the only retailer to add new shoppers, Kantar data found.

“Dunnes typically has its most successful months in the autumn as shoppers favour branded items and take shelter from the elements in its shopping centre locations,” Ms Healy said.

“New customers contributed an additional €26.2 million to its performance and and it also enjoyed success through branded items – it saw customers spend an additional €13 million on well-known names this period.”

Aldi’s new stores propelled it to a second consecutive month with a record-breaking share at 12.8 per cent. Lidl was close behind at 12.7 per cent