Supermarkets ramped up online operations to serve millions more customers as fears of catching Covid-19 fueled demand from vulnerable buyers, including the elderly, as well as families trying to avoid travel in shops.
Tesco alone has more than doubled its number of delivery slots, including click and collect, to 1.2 million in six weeks and Sainsbury’s is poised to increase its number of slots by more than 75% to 600,000 this week. Asda, Morrisons, Iceland and Waitrose also significantly increased their deliveries.
Waitrose will open a new six-acre warehouse in Enfield, north London on Thursday as she prepares to part with Ocado, the online grocery specialist who currently sells supermarket food. The facility will allow Waitrose to double online grocery deliveries in the capital by September with an additional 13,000 weekly slots.
Thomas Brereton, a retail analyst with research firm GlobalData, has suggested that the move to home shopping is unlikely to reverse even if the government-imposed lockdown to prevent the spread of the virus is mitigated later in the year.
“The online grocery market is now expected to grow 25.5% in 2020 – significantly more than the 8.5% previously forecast,” said Brereton. “In addition to the initial increase in volume demand (around 30% in April), reluctance to continue venturing in stores for the rest of the year will stimulate growth in the online market over a longer period than in store. “
The latest prediction came after it appeared that online sales rose to 10.2% of the grocery market in the three months leading up to April 19, up from around 7% before, analysts said. Kantar market. Its regular survey found that older shoppers in particular had turned to online shopping, increasing their online grocery spending by 94% year-on-year.
Despite the rapid growth, supermarkets have admitted that they cannot meet even higher demand.
It takes time to develop an infrastructure for home delivery, including additional vans, staff to shop on shelves or in new “dark stores” or warehouses.
Ocado, the online grocery specialist, for example, has struggled to expand its service because it relies on robotic facilities that take months or years to build. Grocers with physical stores have been able to adapt more quickly by reserving time when supermarkets are closed to take orders online or by expanding click-through delivery or home collection services to more outlets.
The effort to meet demand has become more pressing as consumer and disability rights groups have warned that thousands of people are not getting the help they need during the pandemic.