This pandemic could be the making of the big four supermarkets

Linda J. Dodson

Even Argos has spluttered back to life, a sure sign that we are living in unique times. The takeover of the chain, with its non-food offering and logistics capabilities, was meant to be transformative for Sainsbury’s but it has been a disappointing flop. Yet, sales leapt nearly 11pc during the quarter. At this rate, the dividend could make a quick return.

It may be a stretch to say the pandemic could be the making of the supermarkets. The boom may even prove to be short lived but for the first time in years there is plenty for them to cheer. And at the very least it’s a helpful distraction from all those uncomfortable bonus rows.

Food to go has gone

From hero to zero, coronavirus has turned reputations upside down in a heartbeat, and no more so than at SSP, the terrible corporate name behind such esteemed airport and train station eateries as Upper Crust and Ritazza.

A £300m fundraising at the end of March was supposed to steady the ship but it hasn’t stopped SSP from announcing 5,000 job cuts, more than half its 9,000-strong workforce.

The “food to go” market has evaporated. The real question is will it return? The high street will experience something of a resurgence but airports and train stations are likely to remain at a fraction of their capacity for the foreseeable future. The major airlines are predicting a downturn lasting anywhere between three and five years.

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