Shoppers panic buy at Tesco, Sainsbury's, Morrisons and Ocado

In supermarkets, websites came under pressure after shoppers battled to book deliveries ahead of the new national lockdown in England as the numbers showed a record for grocers in December.

The big chains struggled with their apps and websites on Monday night after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the third English lockdown would begin on Tuesday.

Sainsbury’s app reportedly went down temporarily last night while Tesco also had problems with online operations, forcing Morrisons and Ocado to put shoppers in virtual queues.

The sites appeared to be largely normal on Tuesday but had little availability for home delivery slots.

Sainsbury’s said it temporarily had limited access to its online grocery service on Monday evening to “cope with the high demand for slots and updates that customers have placed on existing orders”.

According to Tesco, the bosses were having discussions to review the item limit for online baskets, as well as product restrictions on popular items like toilet paper, antibacterial wipes and pasta.

The sector has been inundated by demand for the past two months due to tightened restrictions. The industry figures show a record month for supermarkets in December.

According to Kantar, the British spent £ 11.7 billion in supermarkets in December, with trade boosted by the closings of restaurants, bars and cafes in most parts of the UK.

The data showed that December’s record helped boost sales 11.4% to £ 32.7 billion in the twelve weeks ending December 27.

Morrisons also reported celebratory trade data showing sales rose 9.3% year over year for the past three weeks, including the main Christmas trading period.

Like-for-like sales increased 8.5% in the nine weeks to January 3 and 8.3% in the six months to the same date. This was supported by strong online sales and growth in the wholesale business.

Kantar said the supermarket trade was boosted by the £ 4 billion that would normally have been spent on eating and drinking outside the home during the Christmas season.

The report also showed that online grocery sales represented 12.6% of total spend in December, compared to 7.4% in 2019.

Online specialist Ocado ended the year as the fastest growing retailer in the country after a 36.5% increase in sales in the festive quarter.

Fraser McKevitt, Director of Retail and Consumer Insight at Kantar, said, “December is always an incredibly busy time for supermarkets, but take-away grocery shopping is usually complemented by celebrations in restaurants, pubs and bars – with £ 4 billion for groceries and drink without alcohol during the normal festive month outside the home.

“This year almost all of these meals were eaten at home and retailers have stepped up to meet the growing demand.”

He added that the port disruption ahead of the Brexit deal deadline resulted in shoppers bringing their Christmas shopping forward, with Monday December 21 being the busiest shopping day of the year.

“Fifteen million households – more than half the total population – went to a grocer at some point that day and spent a total of £ 819 million,” he said.

The data showed that Morrisons was one of the Christmas winners among the Big Four players, with sales up 13% in the fixed quarter and market share increasing from 10.3% to 10.4%.

Tesco’s market share decreased from 27.4% to 27.3%, but sales increased 11%.

Sainsbury’s sales rose 16% to £ 5.2 billion, although, like Tesco, its market share fell from 16.0% to 15.9%.

Asda’s market share decreased from 14.8% to 14.3% as sales increased 7.8%.

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