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Business briefing: Grocery sales a record £10.8bn… and £200m spent on booze

LAST month was the busiest ever for supermarkets in Britain, figures show.

Grocery sales rose more than 20 per cent to £10.8billion in the last four weeks, according to data from analysts Kantar — higher than at Christmas.

Between March 16 and March 19 — five days before the lockdown — 88 per cent of households shopped for groceries, an average of five trips each. It amounted to 42million extra visits in four days.

During the month, shoppers built up a £199million stockpile of alcohol — a 22 per cent rise — as pubs and clubs shut, and spent 28 per cent more on cupboard fillers and frozen foods. One in seven households received an online delivery.

However, Kantar’s head of retail Fraser McKevitt said that panic buying was ‘concentrated to a relatively low number of individuals’ and would taper off as supermarkets showed they can restock.

■ TESCO has expanded its home delivery and Click & Collect services amid huge demand due to the lockdown. The supermarket giant has 780,000 delivery and collection slots a week, up from 660,000 two weeks ago and has 7,500 new drivers and pickers.

BA suspends all Gatwick flights amid clampdown

Collapse in demand: British Airways jets at Gatwick Airport PICTURE: REX

BRITISH Airways has suspended all flights to and from Gatwick amid a collapse in demand.

The carrier said it will temporarily stop serving the UK’s second busiest airport due to the ‘considerable restrictions’ caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Just 33 flights were scheduled to use Gatwick yesterday and one of its two terminals will be closed from today.

Airports have significantly scaled down their operations as the crisis bites and airlines cancel most flights. EasyJet has grounded its entire fleet of 344 aircraft.

Recession ‘on way’ after UK’s economy flatlines

A DEEP recession is on the way, experts warned yesterday — as figures show the UK economy flatlined during the final three months of 2019.

The Office for National Statistics confirmed that household spending failed to grow for the first time in four years and business investment tumbled. It blamed the impact of Brexit and the General Election.

City economists warned that the figures would ‘pale in comparison’ to the ‘devastating’ effects of the coronavirus crisis during the first quarter of 2020.

Business bites

■ TWO out of three people seeking help with their debt are under 40, a charity has revealed. The number of 18- to 39-year-olds contacting StepChange Debt Charity has risen ten per cent in five years. Clients had an average of £14,129 in non-mortgage debt.

■ THE national minimum adult wage rises from £8.21 an hour to £8.72 today. It goes up from £7.70 to £8.20 for 21- to 24-year-olds, from £6.15 to £6.45 for 18- to 20-year-olds and from £4.35 to £4.55 for under-18s. The hourly rate for apprentices will increase from £3.90 to £4.15.