Supermarket sales have fallen for the first time in three years as shoppers’ appetite for beer, cider and ice cream fell in comparison with a period last year buoyed by hot weather and the men’s football World Cup.
Shares in Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons fell after industry data from Kantar showed the market shrank by 0.5% in the 12 weeks to 14 July – the first decline since June 2016.
The report said households had been taking one fewer grocery shopping trip during the period while stores are also being squeezed by a slowdown in price growth.
However, it anticipated that the market would return to growth once the comparatives with last year’s summer period pass.
Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar, said it was a “challenging 12 weeks” with sales declining or growth slowing at all the major grocers except Ocado.
He added: “Last year people shopped more frequently and closer to home as they topped up the cupboards while enjoying the sunshine and the men’s football World Cup.
“This year households are making one fewer trip, which may not sound like much but is enough to tip the market into decline.
“In addition, like-for-like grocery inflation fell marginally to 0.9%, which is good news for consumers but has made it harder for retailers to achieve value growth.”
Kantar said consumers spent £75m less on alcohol this year with beer down 11% and cider down 13% while soft drink sales fell by £56m and ice cream by £55m.
Chocolate sales did better, rising by 15% with shoppers apparently happier to buy a treat without fear of it melting in the hot weather.
Among the big supermarkets, Tesco sales fell 2%, Sainsbury’s by 2.3% and Asda by 2%, while Morrisons slipped 2.6%.
Discounters Aldi and Lidl grew by 6.7% and 7% while online retailer Ocado saw sales grow by 11.9%.
The report sent shares in UK-listed supermarket groups lower, with Tesco down around 2% at lunchtime, Sainsbury’s 1.5% off, and Morrisons also in the red.