Irish grocery market: record-breaking online sales

Date : 09 March 2021

Lucy Ingram

Retail Analyst

The Irish market grew 16.3% in the 12 weeks to 21 February, according to the latest results from Kantar. The festive season and the reintroduction of lockdown restrictions were the main drivers of growth.

The market: slow growth lies ahead

Growth accelerated further in the last four weeks, with sales reaching +17.7%. This was the highest level since November 2020. On average, household's grocery bills have increased by €1,000 over the year, meaning an extra €2bn has been spent on take-home groceries.

Year-on-year growth will however decline from next month as we reach 12 months since the beginning of the pandemic, extra loading and closure of the hospitality sector. Schools are also expected to begin a phased reopening, as are restaurants and pubs. This will also impact grocery sales, causing growth to slow.

Online: record-breaking sales

Online had another record-breaking month, accounting for 6.3% of sales. This compares to 2.7% pre-pandemic. 241,500 people made an order in February, compared to 114,800 last year.

To highlight how significant an impact the pandemic has had of changing shopping patterns in Ireland, we can compare to the UK. Although the UK has also seen record breaking sales online, the growth has not been as strong as Ireland, where the online share of the market has more than doubled in one year. In the UK, online now accounts for 15.4% of the overall market, compared to 8.7% in February 2020. 

Whether or not shoppers habits are here to stay, Amazon is keen to ensure it is set up for success in the Irish market. The online marketplace will soon be launching a fulfilment centre in Ireland. The majority of orders by Irish shoppers are fulfilled in the UK before being shipped to Ireland. Therefore, this will allow Amazon to avoid any delays or extra charges due to Brexit trading agreements through bypassing the UK.

The Big Three: SuperValu and Tesco see strong growth

SuperValu was the only retailer to attract new shoppers into store, helping drive sales growth to +20.9%, an increase on the previous reporting period where sales were +18.5%. SuperValu is likely to have benefitted throughout this latest reporting period from its locally focused store estate which benefits people looking to shop closer to home with the increased restrictions. The retailer also continues to heavily promote low prices, appealing to shoppers looking to make savings in amongst the challenging economic backdrop.

Tesco’s sales grew 18%, driven by shoppers adding more to their baskets, picking up an additional 3.6 items in this period.

Dunnes saw the slowest growth of the Big Three, with sales +9.7%. This was a 1.6pp decrease from the previous reporting period where sales were +11.3%. The retailer's growth has slowly been declining since November 2020. This is due to it being against stronger results than Tesco and SuperValu at this time last year. Dunnes is always strongest at Christmas and saw strong growth in Christmas 2019.

Discount: mixed performance continues

Both Aldi and Lidl have seen a slowdown in growth since the beginning of 2020. They also both lost 0.1pp of market share, compared to the previous reporting period.

However, Lidl remained the fastest growing retailer, with sales +21.8%. This was driven by increased basket size, which grew 14.9% year-on-year.

Aldi's growth continued to be below the market, with sales +13.4%.

Lidl's growth had continued to be stronger than Aldi's since the beginning of the pandemic. Its larger stores make social distancing easier. It also introduced safety measures, such as protective screens, to stores earlier.

Detailed results

Total take home grocery consumer spend 12 weeks to 23 Feb 2019 12 weeks to 21 Feb 2020 % Change in value sales
Total outlets 100% 100% 16.3%
Total multiples 89.6% 89.6% 16.4%
Dunnes 23.5% 22.1% 9.7%
Tesco 21.5% 21.8% 18.0%
SuperValu 21.4% 22.3% 20.9%
Aldi 11.6% 11.4% 13.4%
Lidl 11.5% 12.0% 21.8%
Other outlets 10.4% 10.4% 15.5%

Looking for more insight?

See the latest results from SPAR.

Take a look at our 12 month view of Kantar results.


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