Online grocery sales are expected to increase by more than a quarter this year, as the coronavirus foreclosure drives more families to shop at home.
Supermarkets scaled up online operations to serve millions of additional buyers as fears of catching Covid-19 boosted demand from vulnerable buyers, including the elderly, as well as families trying to avoid travel The stores.
Tesco alone, it more than doubled its number of delivery slots, including click and collect, to 1.2 million in six weeks and Sainsbury’s is poised to increase its number of slots by more than 75% to 600,000 this week. Asda, Morrisons, Iceland and Waitrose also significantly increased their deliveries.
Thomas Brereton, a retail analyst with research firm GlobalData, has suggested that the move to home shopping is unlikely to reverse even if the government-imposed lockdown to prevent the spread of the virus is mitigated later in the year.
“The online grocery market is now expected to grow 25.5% in 2020 – significantly more than the 8.5% previously forecast,” said Brereton. “In addition to the initial increase in volume demand (around 30% in April), reluctance to continue venturing in stores for the rest of the year will stimulate growth in the online market over a longer period than in stores. “
The latest prediction came after it appeared that online sales increased to represent 10.2% of the grocery market during the three-month period ending April 19, up from around 7% previously, according to market analysts Kantar. Its regular survey found that older shoppers in particular had turned to internet shopping, increasing their online grocery spending by 94% year-on-year.
Despite the rapid growth, supermarkets admitted that they could not meet even higher demand.
It takes time to develop an infrastructure for home delivery, including additional vans, staff to shop on shelves or in new “dark stores” or warehouses.
Ocado, the online grocery specialist, for example, is struggling to expand its service because it relies on robotic installations that take months or years to build. Grocers with physical stores have been able to adapt more quickly by reserving time when supermarkets are closed to take orders online or by expanding click-through delivery or home collection services to more outlets.
The effort to meet demand has become more pressing as consumer and disability rights groups have warned that thousands of people don’t get the help they need during the pandemic.