Premier, Budgens and Londis stores have reported larger basket spends driven by more customers shopping locally during the coronavirus pandemic.

In Tesco’s trading results for the three months ending 26 June, the supermarket’s boss, Dave Lewis, said Booker Retail Partners (BRP) reported customer shopping habits switching from top-up shops, leading to 24% annual sales growth in the period for the retail division.

“It’s been proximity. People have wanted to stay closer to home during lockdown and all fascias have benefited,” he said.

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“What’s interesting is the change in items people have bought. There are more basic essentials. It’s been a core basket, rather than a simple top-up shop, which is what convenience has been used to.

“Increase in basket size has been significant as people chose different sources to buy products.

“We used the Tesco supply chain to help BRP service some of this volume. There were some lines that weren’t particularly big traditionally, but we’ve been able to support that from Tesco’s side.”

When the UK went into lockdown in March, Booker had diverted logistics and product lines from its catering business to help fill availability gaps across the retail division.

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During the three-month period, Booker Group’s total sales rose by 6.1%, but the catering business had a 32.1% annual drop in sales due to customers in the sector having to temporarily close their businesses.

The Booker network has also been used to support Tesco’s click & collect business, contributing 100,000 additional click & collect slots, while supplying 18,000 deliveries to more than 1,000 care homes.

When questioned whether the gradual reopening of catering businesses would upset the supply chain diverted to help with BRP’s availability, Lewis told betterRetailing he wasn’t worried.

“You have to manage working capital very carefully and I’ve been working with Charles Wilson on how we restock foodservice. We’re in a good place, but we don’t know what the timing and pacing of them opening up will be like.”

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Similarly, Tesco had been providing its own-label range to help One Stop stores with fresh and ambient availability during the pandemic.

Lewis said Tesco would “reflect” on whether it would make this offer available more permanently and extend it to BRP. “There were some emergency measures to get food available to all. It’s been interesting seeing how different customers have responded to different offers,” he said.

“It’s one of the things we can reflect on and view, but the priority now will be safe food available for everyone.”

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