Following the release of its preliminary results for the year, Sainsbury’s chief executive, Mike Coupe, said disruption to the supermarket caused by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic could last until September.
Despite high single digit percentage grocery sales growth through the lockdown period, Sainsbury’s said that it expects lockdown restrictions will have eased by the end of the first quarter in June, but normal business will be interrupted until the end of the first half of the financial year.
The retailer said that it expects to lose £500 million as a result of the virus, but stronger grocery sales and approximately £450 million worth of business rates relief will offset any losses.
“We sold more, for five days running, than we would normally sell in our busiest day at Christmas, that’s why you saw the gaps on the shelf.”
Mike Coupe, who will retire as Sainsbury’s CEO next month before being replaced by Simon Roberts, said: “The last few weeks have been an extraordinary time for our business. First and foremost, I want to say thank you to all of our colleagues. They have shown outstanding commitment and resilience over the past few weeks and I am in awe of their adaptability and the efforts they have made to continue to serve our customers.
“Across every part of the business, colleagues have played their part as we have done everything possible to feed the nation and to prioritise those who are least able to access food and other essential services. This is an unsettling time for everyone, but I am incredibly proud of the way the business has responded, continually adapting and responding to customer feedback. We will continue to work hard to provide food and other essential products to households across the UK and Ireland who are adapting to a new way of living.”
Coupe spoke on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme to discuss the retailer’s performance, adding: “We sold more, for five days running, than we would normally sell in our busiest day at Christmas, that’s why you saw the gaps on the shelf. We have seen a very marked change in the way our customers are shopping. They’re coming less frequently and are buying about twice as much when they do come. Very much a return to the weekly shop, but beyond it.”
Will Broome, founder of shopping app Ubamarket, said: “The news that Sainsbury’s is expecting their coronavirus measures and resulting disruption to customers to continue until September is as clear a sign as any that Britain’s supermarkets can no longer continue to operate in the same way as they have done in recent years.
“The coronavirus pandemic has brought about a new age of retail, and if supermarkets do not adapt, then their customers will suffer in the long-term, as much as their bottom line.
“Two of the key issues faced by supermarkets at the moment is how to make the shopping experience safer, and more efficient, so that they can cater to as many customers as possible. There are now a number of technologies, especially mobile tech and apps, which could be easily implemented by supermarkets to dramatically improve both of these areas, and it is incumbent upon supermarkets to make the shopping experience as safe and convenient as possible for all of their customers.”