April 16, 2021

The coronavirus pandemic continues to cause greater spending on “home centric” categories of spending, including food, according to an update from the UK accountancy firm KPMG and the British Retail Consortium.

The BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor report for March – focused on the UK – indicated that out of 13 retail categories, eight continued to see significant declines, including fashion and beauty. But food sales, along with other home focused categories such as computing and home appliances, saw increases in sales. Although they have yet to stabilise, KPMG said in a statement.

Food sales in the UK were up 14.7% on a like-for-like basis in the three months to March, compared to the same period two years ago, the company said. The total increase for food sales was 11.6%.

KPMG made comparisons with 2019 instead of 2020 because of unstable consumer habits last year, when there was a spike in panic buying followed by a period when spending was depressed.

This is just the latest indication that the sector has enjoyed significant increases as a result of the pandemic, which has caused dramatic reductions in sales in restaurants, which have faced lengthy lockdowns.

“March 2021 saw an 8.3% increase in spending [in the UK] compared to March 2019, which was largely driven by grocery spending,” Helen Dickinson, the BRC’s chief executive said in a statement.

Although grocery spending was credited with driving up overall consumer spending, Susan Barratt, CEO of the retail analysis firm IGD described the food and grocery sector as showing “a more restrained performance” last month when compared to February and the previous year.

“We are unlikely to see a more settled, post-pandemic food and grocery performance until after restrictions further ease through April and May,” Barratt added.

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