Sales through the major UK grocery and health and beauty retailers have increased by over 6% in the third quarter of 2002.

Non-food continues to grow above the rate of grocery sales, and sales for both have picked up after a slow second quarter. This is above the rate of total retail sales which experienced growth of 4%, reports Information Resources.

The August bank holiday, back to school season and late warm weather have all helped in boosting sales towards the end of the quarter. The Centre for Economics and Business Research estimated £125m (US$193.5m) could have been spent on alcohol and food during the Bank Holiday weekend alone.

Trends by sector

Chilled food continues to drive growth in Grocery, with the trend to cater for cash-rich, time-poor consumers still prevalent. Pre-prepared foods such as ready meals, cooked meats, sandwiches and soup showed healthy growth. Seasonal items such as chilled salads, dips and dressings experienced double digit increases.

In the beers, wines and spirits category, wine and beer continue to drive category growth. While the decline in Vermouths & Aperitifs has slowed, so too has the rapid growth in the other beers, wines and spirits sector. Year on year growth has fallen from over 50% last quarter to 14% as this sector matures.

Produce returned to double digit growth after a static second quarter, boosted by the extended warmer weather. Prices also rose compared to last year as poor weather on the continent affected supplies, particularly for fruit and salad vegetables.

While ready meals continue to drive the chilled sector, frozen ready meals declined by over 5% in the quarter, despite more premium products in this sector such as enjoy! and Main Street Bistro. Frozen fish and ice cream and desserts on the other hand both showed growth of over 5%.

Growth in fresh meat has recovered, driven by beef which is up for both the year and the quarter. This compares to poor sales last year caused by the foot and mouth affair. However, this has been offset by declines in lamb and pork. Fresh fish has also experienced double-digit growth in the quarter.

Non-food sectors such as music, videos and electrical items continue to perform well. This quarter gardening products and flowers achieved double-digit growth encouraged by warm weather and the August bank holiday. Stationery sales were up 41% compared to last year as retailers have been expanding their ranges and offering competitive prices.

Toiletries continue to drive growth in the health and beauty sector. Suncare experienced the biggest sales increase, up 23% over last year, as consumers increasingly recognise the benefits of keeping skin healthy.

Background data

* Year to 28 September 2002

** % contribution is the weighted per cent change within each sector

Source: OmniScan MFR, Copyright © Information Resources, 2002. All rights reserved. OmniScan MFR tracks the sales of all goods sold in the following major retailers in Great Britain: Asda, Boots, Iceland, Safeway, Sainsbury’s, Somerfield / Kwik Save, Superdrug and Tesco.

Other sources: Office for National Statistics ; Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs