With signs of stock-piling and panic-buying amongst Irish consumers starting to abate, grocery sales in slowed during the week ending March 22nd according to figures from Nielsen.
The figures show that grocery sales were down 6.8% compared to the previous week – though still up 19% compared to the same time last year – with alcohol being the only category to experience growth.
This decline in sales versus the previous week suggests that stockpile shopping related to COVID-19 may have reached its peak. The previous week ending March 15th saw the peak in stockpiling as people prepared for quarantine living.
“A week on, and Irish shoppers are entrenched in the restricted living phase which has rightly caused a slow down on panic-buying as shoppers use up their stockpiled supplies with many shoppers now unwilling or unable to go out,” says Nielsen.
This slowdown in panic-buying was seen across major categories such as household (-17%), ambient (shelf stable) groceries (-17%) and health and beauty (-21%). Popular ‘stockpiling’ products such as hand sanitisers (-48%), toilet tissue (-41%), soap (-39%) and pasta (-32%) all also saw a decline compared to the previous week. Alcohol was the only category to experience growth – with sales up by 4.3% to €35.8m.
According to Nielsen, this rise in alcohol sales comes amidst the St Patrick’s Day bank holiday, Mother’s Day and the first full week of pub closures as Irish consumers continued to celebrate from a distance, and they spent €35.8m more on alcohol than the previous week ending 15 March.
With more non-essential businesses closing and more time spent at home, Nielsen data also shows that Irish shoppers are now trading up to more premium products as they try to bring cafe, pub and restaurant experiences indoors, with shoppers spending more on products such as instant coffee – which has an average spend of €3.43 per unit1, compared to €3.24 in 2019 (+5.8%).
The same can be said for wine (+5.1%) to €11.47 per litre and take-home ice cream (+8.6%) to €2.77. Irish shoppers are also showing an increased interest in purchasing branded products, with value sales of branded household items in the last four weeks up by 65% compared to the same period in 2019, outpacing the sales of supermarket private label items (32%).
According to Karen Mooney, Ireland market leader at Nielsen:”With many Irish shoppers having already stocked up on their essential items during the last few weeks, we’re now seeing the first signs of sales stabilising across the Irish supermarkets. The significant rise in alcohol sales over the last week shows that Irish consumers are not letting the pandemic, and the closure of pubs, stop them from celebrating the festivities they would have enjoyed around our national holiday, St Patrick’s Day. Irish shoppers are also keen to maintain their lifestyles, and still looking to enjoy daily luxuries by trading up to more premium products to match the quality and experience of a coffee stop or restaurant.”
Mooney continues: “Looking ahead, Irish shoppers will continue to be encouraged to stay at home with all non-essential businesses to remain closed until at least Easter Sunday, though this is likely to be extended further. New shopper trends, such as the preference for premium and branded products are likely to continue over the next few weeks as shoppers adjust to this ‘new normal’.”