Market research firm Kantar said more people over the age of 65 in the UK, many of whom should by now have received their coronavirus jabs, are choosing to visit supermarkets to buy their groceries rather than do so online.
"We’re seeing growing confidence among older shoppers in particular, with 143,000 fewer over-65s making digital orders in March," said Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight.
"Now largely vaccinated, this age group increased its trips to bricks-and-mortar outlets by 6.8% – more than double the national rate," he added.
More than 30 million people in the UK have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine. Those aged 70 and over had got theirs by mid-February. The programme in England is now inviting those aged 50 and above to book appointments and they should receive their first dose by mid-April.
The UK will then start vaccinating the rest of the adult population in age order. Those in their 40s will be next.
Meanwhile, the latest figures from Kantar also show that online grocery growth overall has also slowed in the four weeks to 21 March, with the first signs that shoppers are returning to physical stores.
Online sales were 89% higher than this time last year, but the channel’s share of the market dropped to 14.5% from the record of 15.4% in February 2021. Overall, households made 13 million additional trips to the supermarket this month.
Grocery sales rose 7.4% in the 12 weeks to March 21 in a marked slowdown compared with previous months and sales over the most recent four weeks were down by 3% versus the same time last year.
McKevitt explained that "the anniversary of the first national lockdown means we begin to compare grocery sales against the record-breaking levels seen in the early days of the pandemic and growth has perhaps not surprisingly dipped over the past four weeks as a result."
"This time last year, Brits were adjusting to schools and offices closing and making extra trips to the supermarket to fill their cupboards for lockdown. To put that into context, shoppers made 117 million fewer trips to the supermarket this month compared with those fraught weeks in March 2020," he said.
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Grocery spending remains considerably higher than pre-pandemic levels though. While grocery growth has slowed against 2020, sales are still much higher than the same 12 weeks to 21 March in 2019 – up by 15.6%.
As restrictions on dining out continue, the average household spent an extra £134 ($184) on take-home groceries compared with this period two years ago.
Easter weekend will bring reunions with friends and family for many people and preparations are firmly underway, the report noted.
Shoppers had already spent £37m on hot cross buns and £153m on Easter eggs by 21 March – £48m more than at the same stage last year.
Ocado’s (OCDO.L) sales jumped by 33.9%, taking market share up to 1.9% from 1.5% a year ago.
Discounters Lidl and Aldi, which have not benefited from the boom in online sales during the past year, grew by 2.9% and 1.5% respectively.
Co-op boosted its sales by 7.1%, with its shoppers visiting an average of 22 times during the 12 weeks. Iceland’s sales increased by 14.3%, while sales at Waitrose rose by 5.1%.
Earlier this month, Kantar said Brits spent an extra £15.2bn on groceries last year, which was equivalent to 7 billion extra meals eaten at home and 2 billion cups of tea since last spring.
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