LONDON (Reuters) - COVID-19 lockdowns drove the online share of British grocery sales to a record 17% in February, a 1% increase in share in just a month, industry data showed on Tuesday.
Market researcher NielsenIQ said British shoppers spent 1.5 billion pounds ($2.1 billion) on online groceries in the four weeks to Feb. 27, a jump of 132% year-on-year.
It said the number of British households shopping for groceries online has more than doubled over the last year to 11.8 million or 41%.
"Online grocery has now become a permanent fixture for many UK shoppers - it is now past the ‘tipping point’ and is at the ‘sticking point’," said Mike Watkins, NielsenIQ’s UK head of retailer and business insight.
England entered a third national lockdown on Jan. 4 to stem a surge in COVID-19 cases. (Graphic: https://tmsnrt.rs/34pvUyi)
The rules in England closed schools to most pupils, people were told to work from home if possible, and all hospitality was closed. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland imposed similar measures.
NielsenIQ said total UK grocery sales in February grew 10.6% year-on-year.
However, it noted that in the week to Feb. 27 consumers spent less on essential items such as rice (down 15% year-on-year), dry pasta (down 18%) and toilet rolls (down 12%).
Sales for these items had shot up at this time last year as talk of lockdowns began.
"As vaccination programmes prove successful and with the government outlining a clear roadmap out of lockdown, it’s clear that this has been a boost to consumer confidence and signals another change in purchasing habits," said Watkins.
NielsenIQ said that over the 12 weeks to Feb. 27, Morrisons was the best performer of the country's four major supermarket groups with an 11.7% sales increase.
Sales at market leader Tesco rose 9.5%. They were up 8.7% at Sainsbury's and up 6.8% at Asda.
($1 = 0.7233 pounds)
(Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)