Business

Freezer sales heat up amid coronavirus stockpiling

Woman opening a freezer Image copyright Getty Images

Sales of freezers have spiked amid growing concern over the coronavirus, according to figures from online appliance firm AO.com.

Freezer sales jumped 200% year-on-year last week, and Wednesday was its third highest sales day ever, AO.com said.

Meanwhile, department store chain John Lewis said it had seen "a substantial uplift in freezer sales".

Consumers have cleared shop shelves of some items over recent days, including food and toilet paper.

People may be asked to reduce social contact if the virus becomes more widespread in the next few weeks, and those with the virus are expected to isolate themselves at home.

Sales of online streaming services and takeaway meals have also increased, Barclaycard said.

A John Lewis spokeswoman said the rise in freezer sales, especially chest freezers, was unusual for this time of year.

An AO.com spokesperson said typically at this time of year people were buying heating, cooking and cleaning products. AO.com accounts for a fifth of the UK's home appliance sales, the firm said.

AO.com doesn't ask its customers why they are buying appliances, but it was reasonable to assume people were buying freezers to store more food, the spokesperson said.

At the beginning of March retailer Iceland said it had seen a "notable increase" in the amount of frozen food being bought.

The government has said there is "no need" for coronavirus stockpiling and that it was confident the supermarkets would be able to maintain supplies.

Tesco and Waitrose are among retailers restricting sales of some items including hand sanitiser, UHT milk and some tinned vegetables, in-store and online.

Sales of chest freezers and under-the-counter freezers are up, a trend which normally happens in the run-up to Christmas as people stock up, the AO.com spokesperson added.

The firm, which has been trading since the year 2000, had its third highest freezer sales last week, behind pre-Christmas Black Friday sales in 2018 and 2019.

Separate figures from Barclaycard suggested that consumer spending grew 2.2% last month compared with the year before, "propped up by digital subscriptions and takeaways as Brits stayed home to avoid bad weather and the potential spread of coronavirus", according to the card provider.

However, concerns about coronavirus have not uniformly benefitted retailers, Barclaycard said.

Sales at department stores shrank 3.6% as shoppers avoided the High Street, it said.

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