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Over-65s lead return to supermarket aisles as online surge pauses

Over-65s are leading the way back to the supermarket aisles as the largely-vaccinated generation grows more confident about shopping in physical stores again, new figures show.

Monthly data from market research firm Kantar showed there were 13 million more trips to grocery shops in the four weeks to 21 March than in the previous month.

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Empty shelves have been a common sight at major supermarkets in recent days
Image: Shoppers stripped shelves as they stockpiled a year ago

The trend was greatest among older shoppers and coincided with growth in online sales – which have surged during the pandemic – slowing.

Meanwhile, the figures showed a dramatic comparison with the same period last year – when shoppers were stockpiling ahead of lockdowns – with 117 million fewer trips made this time.

Overall sales for the sector for the four-week period were down by 3% on 2020, though grocery spending is still much higher than pre-pandemic levels in 2019.

Lockdowns and other restrictions have increased demand for grocery shopping over the past year at a time when people are unable to dine out.

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The pandemic has also driven a sharp rise in the share of supermarket purchases done online, though this has slipped back in recent weeks to 14.5% compared to a record high of 15.4% in February.

Kantar said the figures, while still showing an 89% increase in online shopping compared to a year ago, revealed “the first signs that shoppers are returning to physical stores”.

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Fraser McKevitt, Kantar’s head of retail and consumer insight, said: “Overall, households made 13 million additional trips to the supermarket this month and we’re seeing growing confidence among older shoppers in particular, with 143,000 fewer over-65s making digital orders in March.

“Now largely vaccinated, this age group increased its trips to bricks-and-mortar outlets by 6.8% – more than double the national rate.”