Supermarket sales slow despite shoppers already buying Christmas mince pies

The “big four” supermarkets have seen a slow start to the crucial festive period despite shoppers already spending £17 million on mince pies and £3 million on Christmas puddings, figures show.

Slowing growth in the overall market saw sales at Asda and Morrisons fall by 1.2% and 1.7% respectively, while Sainsbury’s and Tesco proved slightly more resilient with drops of 0.2% and 0.6% in the past 12 weeks, Kantar said.

The UK’s largest supermarket recently unveiled its new Clubcard Plus offer which gives subscribers 10% off two large shops each month, and some 1.8 million households made at least two trips to the retailer worth £50 or more in the past four weeks.

Lidl was the fastest growing bricks and mortar retailer this period with sales up by 8.8%, while Co-op has grown continuously since May last year and saw sales increase again this period with year-on-year growth currently at 4.4%.

Year-on-year supermarket sales overall grew by 1%, down slightly on last month, against a backdrop of political uncertainty and a persistently wet autumn, as retailers turned their attention from Halloween to Christmas.

Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar, said: “This year pumpkin sales were up by 6% in October as the public geared up for Halloween – with more than a tenth of British households taking one home. In the past decade pumpkin sales have increased by 62% – a telling barometer of how retailers have found success by increasing focus on seasonal spend.

“With many supermarkets already unveiling their festive advertising campaigns, the starting gun has been fired on the race to be Christmas number one. It should come as no surprise to see the grocers jostling for position early – with the average household expected to spend more than £380 on groceries during December. In total, shoppers will spend nearly £11 billion in that month alone, showing how it’s a crucial period for retailers.”

Figures from analysts Nielsen also show consumers continue to hold back grocery spend at the top four supermarkets as sales rose by just 1.1% in the last four weeks.

Source: Nielsen
Source: Nielsen

Mike Watkins, Nielsen’s UK head of retailer and business insight, said: “The in store promotional activity ahead of the festive period, from Halloween to retailers’ money-off vouchers, clearly proved less effective with consumers as grocery sales largely fell flat in the last four weeks at the big four supermarkets.

“Whilst the economy remains Brits’ number one concern, rising food prices and global warming are climbing up the agenda, and are all motivating shoppers to spend differently. Moreover, with the continued uncertainty around Brexit and now a General Election on the horizon, shoppers are increasingly adopting a savings mindset.”