Easter eggs hit as grocers focus on staple goods

Easter egg shortages have more than doubled this year as grocers switch their priorities to restocking shelves with staple goods such as pasta and rice amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Tuesday, 7th April 2020, 5:00 pm
The number of Easter confectionery products out of stock in supermarkets stands at 25 per cent

The number of Easter confectionery products out of stock in supermarkets stands at 25 per cent, up from 11 per cent in the same week before Easter Sunday in 2019, according to the latest data from research firm Edge by Ascential.

In the week ending April 5, availability of Easter confectionery products, including Easter eggs, was 75 per cent, compared with 89 per cent in stock during the same week before Easter Sunday in 2019.

All supermarkets had greater levels of unavailable Easter confectionery except for Sainsbury’s, which had restrictions in place allowing shoppers to purchase a maximum of three Easter eggs. However, this restriction was lifted on Monday.

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There are also fewer ranges on offer this year, with all grocery retailers apart from Ocado selling 3 per cent fewer lines.

Supermarkets have replaced Easter eggs with staple items that have been in high demand over the last four weeks. This has followed stockpiling among many consumers, sparked by fears around the worldwide spread of the Covid-19 virus, which has seen British consumers instructed by the Government to remain at home in a bid to control the spread.

Analysts at Edge by Ascential said measures to control purchasing have started to show signs of improvement.

Tesco has experienced the biggest improvement in grocery products over the last week. The UK’s biggest retailer has seen 12 days of improved availability, with 32 per cent of products in key categories returning to stock.

The measures include restricting the number of products available to consumers, such as Tesco’s decision to limit online orders to 80 items.

Other retailers have reduced their ranges, with Waitrose reducing its range of stockpiled items such as dry pasta, rice and cooking sauces by two-thirds in order to control stock levels.

Edge by Ascential said Waitrose has now ended its reduction on popular ranges such as cooking sauces, rice, dry pasta, pickled vegetables and noodles, increasing the percentage of available products significantly. However, by Sunday, 31 per cent of Waitrose frozen food was out of stock, as was dry pasta (32 per cent), coffee (31 per cent) and rice (62 per cent).

Sainsbury’s has the biggest unavailability of toilet paper, down 17 per cent, among the grocers. This is in contrast to Waitrose, where toilet paper has increased in availability over the last three days.

Despite having rising levels of available products over the last week, Morrisons experienced a peak in unavailability between Wednesday and Friday. Its biggest decline was in tins and jars, which peaked at 52 per cent out of stock.

Ocado has seen rising stock levels over the last week, particularly in frozen foods. This category saw a decline in unavailable products of more than 20 per cent.

The health and vitamins category had a big decline in stocks over the week. This was particularly prominent at Tesco (down 6 per cent) and Sainsbury’s (down 12 per cent).

Chris Elliott, insight manager at Edge by Ascential, said: “It’s evident that measures to combat stockpiling are working as product availability is stabilising and increasing online.

“This has been achieved through several methods from restricting the number of products available to consumers, to cutting back on product ranges, and scaling back promotions, which have all resulted in the rising availability of products across UK supermarkets.

“However, it’s important to note that supermarkets are not out of the woods just yet. Many popular items such as dry pasta, rice and toilet paper are still experiencing a high level of unavailability across most major stores.

“The declining levels of Easter eggs on shelves compared to this time last year also shows the shifting priorities of retailers, who are likely placing more focus on keeping other shelves stocked. However, with stock levels slowly improving across retailers - albeit several categories still high in demand - we’ll likely continue to see an improvement in stock levels over the forthcoming weeks.”

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