Online grocery stores stop taking orders following surge in sales

LONDON – Customers hoping to avoid busy supermarkets in the run-up to Christmas by shopping online are in for disappointment as supermarkets halt orders following a massive surge in sales.

Online supermarkets such as Tesco, Asda, J Sainsbury and Ocado have revealed they are unable to cope with the huge demand and have stopped taking orders over fears that food will not be delivered in time for Christmas.

Demand for online deliveries has risen by 17% in the last three months, according to data released by market research group TNS.

The halt in taking Christmas orders will come as unwelcome news to many customers, especially those that can not get out to buy their shopping.

Sainsbury's said it offered 30% more delivery slots this year, but 75% of these had been snapped up within a week. Its weekly deliveries have risen to 41,000 in the last fortnight, up from an average of 38,000 for the rest of the year.

Tesco's weekly internet orders are said to have jumped from an average of 170,000 to 200,000 in the last two weeks alone. The group reported a 31% rise in online sales to £401m in the first half of the year and is planning to open a warehouse dedicated to online grocery orders in the south-east.

Ocado, which sells groceries for Waitrose, said it is expecting to deliver twice the number of turkeys, more than 6,000, than it did last year.

The online supermarkets denied that customers were not warned to book early delivery dates in November or December.

The surge in grocery sales reflects the increasing popularity with shopping online for its convenience and ability to browse for goods at leisure.

According to TNS, an estimated 24m customers are expected to spend approximately £5bn between the end of November and Christmas, up from £3.5bn last year.

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