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Chart of the week: retail sales

3 April 2020: the #icaewchartoftheweek is on the subject to retail sales, with UK supermarkets experiencing a 20.5% growth in sales in the four weeks ending on Saturday 21 March 2020 according to Nielsen.

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This is dramatic for the sector, with sales in the last week in that period up 43% over the equivalent week last year.

Although newspaper headlines are full of stories about panic buying, the statistics themselves provide a more nuanced perspective. Shoppers each made an additional three visits to supermarkets over the four-week period at the same time as adding an extra item to each basket (up from 10 to 11 items on average), with the average spend per basket increasing from £15 to £16.

Although some of those extra £1s will have gone on stocking up on toilet rolls and pasta, in practice the majority of this additional spending will have simply replaced food and drink previously bought elsewhere, as pubs, restaurants, works canteens and school lunches have all ceased to operate over the course of the last few weeks.

A boom time for supermarkets, but terrible for most of the rest of the retail sector.