The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically impacted UK retail spend in March with 32.5% of consumers stating that they spent more on food & grocery than in February, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

Sofie Willmott, Lead Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “The main driver of higher spend on food in March was bulk-buying with 44.8% of those that spent more than February, doing so to stock up on essential goods. With supermarkets frequently running out of items such as toilet roll, pasta and chopped tomatoes, UK consumers bought when they could, boosting food expenditure in March with market leader Tesco reporting sales rising c30% in the first few weeks of the crisis.”

Another key driver of increased spend was consumers eating out less in March, as restaurants and cafes were forced to close in line with lockdown requirements instated on 23 March.

Willmott continues: “Consumers that may normally buy breakfast and lunch from food service outlets during the working week and frequently eat meals at restaurants no longer had this option towards the end of March. With takeaways now the only way to eat food that has not been purchased from a supermarket or equivalent alternative, shoppers spent more on stocking their fridges and cupboards.”

In contrast to March 2019, Mother’s Day could not be celebrated with extended family members this year and so although the occasion was a key driver of higher grocery spend last year, it had a much smaller impact in March 2020 with only 13.5% citing this as a reason for higher spend versus February.