Grocery prices tumble at fastest rate in 14 years as shoppers stay at home to eat

Grocery sales in the north rose 19.7 per cent in the last 12 weeks as people stocked up pre-lockdown and continued to eat more meals at home
Gary McDonald Business Editor

THE price of groceries and non-food items fell at their fastest rate in more than a decade last month is what is being heralded as a major boon for Northern Ireland shoppers.

The latest shop price index from BRC-Nielsen revealed that prices slid by 2.4 per cent in May, following a 1.7 per cent decline in April, while non-food prices tumbled by 4.6 per cent.

And it comes as separate figures by Kantar reveal that, over the last 12 weeks, grocery sales in the north spiked by 19.7 per cent as people stocked up pre-lockdown and continued to eat more meals at home.

"These figures are a real boost for households,where budgets have been squeezed over recent months with the economic uncertainty brought about by coronavirus," NI Retail Consortium director Aodhan Connolly said.

"Retailers have worked hard to keep prices affordable, even though for those who have been open there has been a significant increase in costs to implement social distancing measures and to hire staff both to backfill jobs for colleagues who are shielding, and for the growth of labour intensive modes of shopping such as delivery and click and collect.”

The BRC-Nielsen index pointed to the fall in prices being driven by non-essential retailers, who were forced to shut their doors in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

British Retail Consortium (BRC) head Helen Dickinson said: "Clothing and furniture saw the biggest drop as retailers ran promotions to encourage consumer spending and attempted to mitigate recent losses."

Non-food retailers saw prices slide by 4.6 per cent - the sharpest decline since December 2006 - compared to a decline of 3.7 per cent in April.

Meanwhile Emer Healy, retail analyst at Kantar, said the Northern Irish grocery market has recorded strong growth in the past year, largely reflecting the impact of the recent lockdown,with sales 4.4 per cent year on year and by close to 20 per cent over the last 12 weeks.

“Health and hygiene conscious consumers have driven up sales of household cleaners and liquid soap by 14.4 per cent and 40.2 per cent respectively over the latest 52 weeks.

“People are turning to the kitchen to stay entertained, and savoury home cooking has increased by 11.7 per cent, with those looking to recreate their favourite restaurant meals boosting sales of international ingredients by 26.6 per cent year on year.

“Tesco saw sales growth of 4.9 per cent and gained 0.2 percentage points of share in the past 12 months. An influx of new shoppers in the latest period, up 1.3 per cent, contributed to its growth.

Sales at Asda decreased by 0.6 per cent but Sainsbury’s was buoyed by a 2.2 per cent increase in shopper frequency and grew by 4.2 per cent.

Overall, Lidl remained the strongest performing retailer, increasing its value sales by 9.1 per cent and lifting its market share to 6.2 per cent.

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