Coronavirus: Scented candles and busy kitchens help households get through new lockdown restrictions

Scented candles, potpourri, and a wider cooking repertoire are helping British households get through lockdown restrictions, new industry data and trading figures suggest.

Butchers and greengrocers’ shops are also proving popular as consumers increasingly turn to local firms for their food and drink needs, according to one survey.

But data published on Tuesday suggested there was little evidence of shoppers stockpiling essential goods as many did earlier this year – though there have been reports of incidents of such behaviour.

Market researchers Kantar said supermarket sales grew 9.4% in the four weeks to 1 November though the growth was in line with the previous couple of months – except for in Wales, which saw a bigger spike as it faced tougher restrictions.

Fraser McKevitt, Kantar’s head of retail and consumer insight, said: “The increased spending did not provide any evidence of stockpiling, and initial figures suggest no sign of panic buying in England either.”

Instead, the report said, people were “hunkering down with seasonal comforts and making the best of life at home”.

Sales of scented candles, potpourri and essential oils for diffusers were up by 29% compared with the same period last year.

Elsewhere, Mr Kipling to Sharwoods maker Premier Foods reported a 35.5% rise in half-year profits to £50.5m thanks to “more meal occasions being consumed at home”, according to chief executive Alex Whitehouse.

Premier reported double digit growth for its Bisto gravy, McDougalls flour and Batchelors soup brands as well as “very robust” demand for Cadbury’s mini rolls.

The company said it had attracted millions of new consumers during the six months to 26 September, at a time when “households have looked to expand their repertoire of meals”.

Premier said demand looked set to be boosted by the latest restrictions but acknowledged that the upturn was only likely to last as long as they did.

Meanwhile, figures from Barclaycard showed a mixed picture with consumer spending down by 0.1% in October – with essential items up 4.2% and non-essentials down 1.7%.

However, specialist food and drink stores – including butchers and greengrocers – saw sales growth of 50.7%, the report said.

Kantar also pointed to a similar trend, at a time when shoppers’ visits to in-store deli, meat and fish counters at supermarkets have been falling – and as Sainsbury’s closes its counters.

In an apparent contrast with Kantar’s report, Barclaycard did find evidence that a third of consumers said they were stockpiling essentials.

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