Fears over the coronavirus pandemic caused sales of hand sanitiser from supermarkets to rocket 255% in the 12 weeks to 23 February.
Rising panic over the coronavirus helped he UK’s grocery sector grow at its fastest pace since November last year.
According to the latest Kantar data, supermarket sales expanded 0.7% year-on-year to £28.5bn, assisted by higher sales of health and hygiene products as a result of public concerns around the spread of the virus, which has killed over 3,000 people worldwide.
“Given the media focus around the outbreak of [coronavirus] in February, it’s unsurprising to see shoppers prudently protecting themselves from illness”, said Fraser McKevitt, Kantar’s head of retail and consumer insight.
He added that aside from the surge in sanitiser, sales of other liquid soaps had increased by 7% alongside a 10% jump in sales of household cleaners.
Sainsbury’s only ‘big four’ grocer to report growth
Among the supermarkets, J Sainsbury PLC (LON:SBRY) was the only one of Britain’s ‘big four’ grocers to increase its sales year-on-year over the 12 weeks, rising 0.3%, which was attributed to higher sales as its Local-brand of convenience stores.
Meanwhile, the UK’s largest supermarket, Tesco PLC (LON:TSCO), saw its sales decline 0.8% while Asda, owned by Walmart Inc (NYSE:WMT), fell 1.2% and Wm Morrison Supermarkets PLC (LON:MRW) declined 2%.
Big on sales, Lidl on price
Meanwhile, the discounters continued to dominate the top spots for biggest increases in sales, with Lidl the fastest growing UK supermarket as its sales jumped 11.4% in the period.
Lidl has been the main beneficiary of sales of Valentines-related items, with its sales of chilled ready meals, desserts, sparkling wine and boxed chocolates rising 17%.
McKevitt added that Lidl had also been reaping rewards from its store expansion programme, opening its 800th UK store in February.
“The new locations have helped to bring in nearly 900,000 additional shoppers to the supermarket this period”, McKevitt said.
Fellow German discounter Aldi was further behind its rival with its sales expanding 5.7% over the 12 weeks.
Ocado’s former delivery partner, Waitrose, saw its sales fall 1.3% in the 12 weeks as it moves to take control of its online delivery operation following the end of its contract with Ocado.
However, while it had a smaller market share compared to its rivals, McKevitt said Waitrose was “the market leader in shopper satisfaction”.
“Nearly four times more people report a good experience shopping with Waitrose than a negative one. Satisfaction with in-store staff is particularly high, and capturing that trademark service will be crucial as it grows its online platform this year”, he added.
Shares in Sainsbury’s were 3.3% higher at 211.2p in early trading on Tuesday, while Tesco rose 2.9% to 234.8p and Morrisons climbed 2.7% to 184.9p. Ocado was 1.3% higher at 1,134p.