Coronavirus (COVID-19): UK market update w/e 5 April

Nick Gladding
Senior Retail Analyst

Date : 06 April 2020

In this article, updated daily, we summarise the latest responses to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in the UK:

Market update:

  • GB grocery market sees fastest growth on record. Market growth for the 12 weeks to 22 March was +7.6%, the fastest rate in over a decade, according to Kantar. The rapid growth was driven by a 20.6% surge in sales over the last four weeks. . More details here
  • Contactless payment: The UK government has agreed to lift the contactless payment limit to £45 (US$56) in a move to facilitate social distancing. More details here

Multiples update:

  • Tesco reports fresh food stocks have almost returned to normal with remaining shortages in packaged groceries expected to be resolved over the next few days in some areas. Multi-buy promotions have been removed in all categories (except Easter eggs) and priority shopping times extended for NHS workers, elderly and vulnerable shoppers. A three-item limit per customer on every product line remains across all stores. More details here
  • Tesco's £30m community support package: The new package includes a £25m food donations programme. In addition to Tesco's own Community Food Connection scheme, Tesco will now provide £15m of food to FareShare and the Trussell Trust and a donation to cover their running costs. Tesco will now direct funds from its Bags of Help scheme to help the most vulnerable and strengthen its existing partnership with the British Red Cross. Stores also have £1m of funding to support causes in their local area.
  • Sainsbury’s is regulating customer flows in its stores by using queuing systems and by reducing the number of checkouts to enable customers to ease congestion in this part of the store. It is now asking for only one adult from each household to go shopping. The installation of safety screens at every manned checkout at all supermarkets, Locals and Argos collection points will be completed in the next few days. Usage of the Smartshop app is being actively encouraged to reduce interaction with other customers and colleagues and to speed up payment. Limits on how many items people can buy will start to be lifted from April 5th but remain in place for the most popular items.  More details here
  • Asda has stepped up its communication of precautions against Coronavirus, with clear guidance to customers. Store opening hours have been reduced to 8am – 8pm and prioritisation given to NHS workers in the first hour of trading on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Purchasing limits have been applied to certain popular lines and customer numbers regulated so that social distancing can be observed. Perspex screens are also being installed at checkouts to reduce the risk of virus transmission. More details here
  • Asda launches a 'volunteer shopping card': The new contactless pre-payment card can be bought and topped up online by those who cannot go out to shop and given to those shopping on their behalf. More details here
  • Morrisons has been one of the most proactive retailers in installing screens around checkouts. Nearly all the staffed checkouts at its stores are now equipped with this protection and cleaning regimes have been stepped up with hand gel now used by staff on all tills. A staggered system of store entry has also been introduced and customer flow in stores reconfigured to enable social distancing. Morrisons is also using its food production plants for an extra hour each day to help restock food banks and using cafe areas as food donation points. More details here
  • Waitrose & Partners has introduced a five-point plan to keep shoppers and partners safe. Measures include limiting customer numbers, two metre marshals, floor signage to facilitate social distancing, checkout screens and checkout reductions. More details here. Parent John Lewis Partnership is also making donations to three charities to support local communities undergoing isolation and food insecurity
  • M&S has temporarily added a number of branded lines to boost availability during the COVID-19 crisis. Brands such as Tilda rice and Rumno pasta have been added to improve its coverage of basic groceries. M&S is also adjusting the product mix in smaller stores to focus more on ‘key staples’ at smaller stores. In a a further development, M&S will now make immediate payments to small suppliers to improve their cashflow
  • M&S is to award a 15% pay rise to frontline store and supply chain staff. The higher pay will apply from Monday until at least the end of May when it will be reviewed in the light of government guidance. Staff on furlough - which can be taken by taken by frontline staff with caring commitments or who are vulnerable to infection – will continue to be paid in full. The retailer will also distribute plastic face shields to store staff who want them
  • M&S launches volunteer card:  The new pre-payment card can be loaded with up to £500 for spending by a customer shopping on behalf of someone who cannot reach a store.
  • Iceland: See separate story here

Online update:

  • Tesco has expanded home delivery to 780,000 slots per week, up from 660,000 per week two weeks ago and plans to increase this by another 100,000 in the coming weeks. More details here
  • Sainsbury's has boosted online grocery capacity from 370,000 two weeks ago to 600,000 by the end of next week. Capacity will be increased further in the weeks ahead
  • Sainsbury's has relaunched its Chop Chop rapid delivery service in selected inner London postcodes. It promises to offer deliveries of up to 20 items within 60 minutes of ordering for a £4.99 fee.
  • Sainsbury’s is proactively identifying elderly, disabled and vulnerable customers to give them priority access to online delivery - 450,000 of these customers have been offered priority booking to date. A helpline to support those aged 70+ without online access has now helped 170,000 customers
  • Asda has increased capacity by over 300,000 to 700,000 slots per week but is urging those who can get to store to do so to free-up slots for those who need them most
  • Morrisons will have increased home delivery slots by 60% by the end of April and Morrisons trial click & collect service is being rolled out to 130 stores. A call centre has also opened for customers who aren't online to place orders by phone.
  • Morrisons food box update: Morrisons has already delivered over 8,000 of its 'essentials' food boxes. It will now rapidly scale up capacity to produce 300,000 boxes for customers nationwide, using DPD as couriers. Morrisons is also working with some NHS trusts to distribute food boxes at hospital car parks for NHS workers, synchronised with their shift changes
  • M&S has launched a food box service delivery service. Priced at £35 it contains a mix of over 20 ambient grocery lines and treats. Due to high levels of demand, the box had sold out by Wednesday afternoon. M&S has also suspended its Food-to-order service
  • Ocado has announced that it is stopping selling bottled water to free up capacity at its fulfilment centres. The action will allow it to deliver to an extra 6,000 homes each week

Discount update:

  • Aldi and Lidl: See latest responses story here
  • Variety discounters: See latest responses story here

Convenience update:

  • Co-op introduces new measures to protect colleagues and customers. Co-op has invested £3m to install thousands of protective Perspex screens at till points and serving counters in its 2,600 UK stores, along with providing more gloves and hand sanitiser for frontline colleagues.  Co-op stores are also limiting the number of customers entering branches to ensure social distancing rules are observed when people shop. Floor markers placed 2m apart have been introduced to act as a guide to shoppers.  A full deep clean of all the retailer’s 13 logistics depots and its 2,000 vehicle cabs has also been completed.  Co-op also announced that it had filled every one of the 5,000 temporary store roles it created to cope with increased demand in a record seven days.

  • Co-op launches online community platform:  The platform, called Co-operate, aims to connect individuals to local and national organisations who need support, and can support, during the crisis. Co-operate will evolve as the situation changes.  Visit the Co-operate website for more information.

  • Co-op reduces opening hours and closes some stores. The shorter opening hours will give colleagues time to replenish stock ready. Following the government's advice to work from home, some stores are less busy.  These will be closed and colleagues and stock moved to nearby branches which have higher demand

  • WHSmith partners with Sainsbury's to sell groceries in hospitals: WHSmith has extended its supply agreement with Sainsbury's to bring an extra 90 products into its 80 hospital stores. The new products will include essentials such as toilet roll, pasta and long life food products. NHS staff will continue to receive a 20% discount on all products sold in all WH Smith hospital stores including Sainsbury's lines.

Food-to-go and out-of-home update:

  • See latest responses story here
  • Brakes launches call and collect service: see story here

Drugstores update:

  • Five ways Boots is responding to the Pandemic: see story here

For more on Coronavirus (COVID-19)