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Retail alcohol sales surge 31%

Published:  24 April, 2020

Alcohol sales in UK retailers surged 31.4% in volume terms in March, well ahead of overall supermarket sales which rose 10.3% during the month, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

In value terms, alcohol sales were up 32.6% compared to overall supemarket sales growth of 10.2% according to the data released this morning, noting that alcohol sales can be more volatile for month-on-month growth rates.

Online shopping as a proportion of all retail reached a record high of 22% as more shoppers than ever before tried to order goods online in a bid to avoid catching Covid-19, said the ONS.

Not surprisingly, comments from grocery retailers suggested that panic buying, or stockpiling during the Covid-19 pandemic, was “a big factor” in the increased sales, particularly for supermarkets, said the ONS

Store closures were a reason provided by smaller food stores for reduced sales, although a small number did diversify with delivery-only orders, it added. 

Overall retail sales fell a record 5.1% during the month as many stores shut up shop in the face of the Covid-19 lockdown - the steepest sales fall recorded by the ONS since it started collecting the data in 1996.

Referring to the situation as “retail armageddon”, Ayush Ansal, chief investment officer at the hedge fund, Crimson Black Capital, said: "While the January retail sales data showed signs of the Boris Bounce, the March data reflected the Covid-19 collapse.

"Unsurprisingly, food stores performed well in March and more people than ever started to buy online. The rise in alcohol sales is particularly pronounced and will not go unnoticed.

"As catastrophic as it is, this data will have been priced in by markets. Everyone saw it coming."

At the beginning of this week, Nielsen released figures showing that off-trade alcohol sales surged 29% over the Easter weekend.