Discounter Aldi has seen its grocery market share grow for the first time in the last year, as many customers who had been buying food online returned to supermarkets in April.

customer face mask

As the UK’s vaccination programme continues to advance and in a month where non-essential retail reopened alongside pubs and restaurants with some restrictions, customer visits to supermarkets jumped by 4% in April, according to the latest Kantar supermarket data. 

Kantar’s head of retail and consumer insight Fraser McKevitt said that April 2021 indicated that as the vaccine rollout continues, cases and deaths continue to fall and more of society begins to reopen, many customers will begin to look to return to a sense of normality

“There is a growing sense that the worst of the pandemic is behind us, and people are becoming more comfortable with venturing out to the supermarket. The past four weeks have been the busiest in store for the grocers in more than a year, as the number of trips made in April increased by 4% compared to March. With much of the over-65 community now vaccinated, older shoppers accounted for nearly half of the increased footfall.”

By comparison, the number of people shopping online for groceries fell for the second straight month, down to 13.9% from a previous high of 15.4% in February. McKevitt added that while online grocery shopping continues to grow, it has slowed significantly since the height of the crisis.  

“While online is still growing strongly, at 46%, the rate is half what it was at the height of the pandemic.”

Aldi on the march

This return to more pre-pandemic normalcy in shopping behaviour was most beneficial for bricks-and-mortar dependent grocers such as Aldi, which recorded its first growth in market share in a year.

The discounter saw market share tip 8% and saw overall sales jump 6.6%. Discounter compatriot Lidl saw its market share hold steady at 6%, while sales grew 6.1%. 

In terms of year-on-year comparisons, grocery sales for the 12 weeks to April 18 2021 were up 5.7%, with consumer confidence increasing all of the time. In the month of April, sales were up 6.5% year-on-year. 

“While the market may fluctuate between growth and decline in the months ahead, depending on the year-on-year comparison being made, the fact that trip numbers are up and basket sizes down suggests that habits are slowly returning to normal,” said McKevitt. 

Another indication of this is that while customers have returned to supermarkets in their droves, convenience stores - which were one of the big winners from the initial months of the pandemic - saw sales fall 19% in April. 

The Co-op saw sales decrease annually by 3.1% over the 12 weeks compared to last year. However, the c-store specialist still recorded a 16.2% sales increase compared to the same period in 2019. 

In terms of the big four, Asda was the fastest growing during the period for the first time in over two and a half years. It recorded a 0.4% increase in market share to 14.8%, while sales jumped 8% during the period. 

Tesco also marginally increased its market share 0.2 percentage points to 27%, while Sainsbury’s market share remained static at 15.3% and Morrisons reported a 0.1 percentage point increase to 10%.

In line with the wider slowdown in online shopping seen in the period, Ocado’s overall sales growth slowed to 27%, although it still held on to its title of fastest-growing grocer in the UK.