The warm weather this summer has been critical to the momentum in the retail sector during the last 12 weeks, according to Nielsen data released today (August 21).

During the period ending August 11, the big four supermarkets saw more shoppers visiting more often and spending more at each visit as a result of the warmer temperatures and the prolonged heatwave. The last four weeks alone brought industry growth of 4.2%.

The Co-op Group was the fastest growing retailer (excluding the discounters) during the last four weeks, with sales growth of 6.6%. 

Overall volume growth at the supermarkets improved to 2.9% over the same period, up from 2.2% in the previous four weeks. Two-thirds of this growth came from soft drinks and fresh fruit and vegetable sales.

Soft drinks, in particular, saw massive growth during the last four weeks, with value growth up 29% and volume growth up 20%. Fresh fruit and vegetables also saw considerable growth, with value growth up 4.4% and volume growth up 4.6%.

These figures are in stark contrast to Nielsen’s July Total Till results, where sales of fresh meat and alcohol were helped by the Russia World Cup.

Nielsen’s UK head of retailer insight Mike Watkins said: “As one of the hottest summers on record, these past 12 weeks have given a real boost to sales at supermarkets. This is welcome news for the industry after a lacklustre start to the year following the ‘beast from the east’ and a squeeze on spending as inflation continued to bite.

“Over the last four weeks, we also saw promotional activity fall back to 26% of sales, the lowest since March 2017. Looking ahead, retailers and brands will begin to invest more in targeted promotions around upcoming events such as back to school, Halloween and Christmas to encourage incremental spend and will be less reliant on general promotions around the weekly shop.

He added: “The next few weeks will now set the tone for the rest of the year. Shoppers will return from holiday, kids will go back to school, and there will be a return to more usual shopping patterns. We are expecting the momentum to continue with industry growth of around +3%, just ahead of inflation, and volume growths to remain positive.”