Britons splash out £50m more on Easter treats before Covid lockdown eases

Easter egg

Britons have spent nearly £50m more on Easter treats such as chocolate eggs and hot-cross buns so far this year as the easing of lockdown restrictions leads to households splashing out on treats before long-awaited reunions with friends and family.

As the return of the “rule of six” permits small outdoor gatherings over the long Easter weekend Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at grocery market analysts Kantar, said the sales picture pointed to “people making a special, even symbolic, effort this year and grandparents might be showing up with additional treats”.

The prospect of get-togethers after several months of restrictions has resulted in shoppers spending £37m on hot-cross buns and £153m on Easter eggs up to 21 March compared with 2020. That is £48m more than at the same stage last year, when the unfolding health crisis led to consumers focusing on stockpiling essentials such as toilet paper and pasta instead.

Kantar’s poll of 70,000 consumers found a quarter of households planned to fire up their barbecues over the long weekend if the weather stayed fair, while 60% were looking forward to socialising with friends again.

The data also shows the grocery market starting to return to normal after the extraordinary boom triggered by the lockdowns. In the last month, sales were 3% lower than in March 2020, when the first lockdown resulted in record spending.

Britons were reeling this time last year as schools and workplaces closed and were making extra trips to the supermarket to fill their cupboards for lockdown. This month, however, shoppers have made 117m fewer trips compared with those fraught weeks.

Despite the recent slowdown, supermarket sales over the three months to 21 March are still more than 7% up on 2020, and nearly 16% higher than in 2019. The closure of restaurants and bars means that the average household has spent an extra £134 on groceries during the period compared with two years ago.

The Kantar data also detected shoppers switching from online services back to stores with 13m more supermarket visits in March than in February, as the vaccine rollout and falling infection rate improves shopper confidence. Online grocery sales are nearly double 2020 levels but account for 14.5% of the market, down from the record of 15.4% set in February.

Tesco, Asda and Morrisons have won more business in recent months, while Aldi and Lidl, which have not benefited from the boom in online sales, lost ground.