Supermarkets suffer slowest Christmas growth since 2015

Supermarkets suffered their slowest growth over the Christmas period since 2015 after the hoped-for post-election spending rush by consumers failed to materialise, figures show.

Year-on-year sales grew marginally by 0.2% in the 12 weeks to December 29 but, despite retailers taking a record £29.3 billion – up £50 million on last year – 2019 saw the slowest rate of growth over the Christmas period for four years, analysts Kantar said.

While December 23 was easily the single busiest shopping day of 2019 – and the largest shopping day ever recorded for supermarkets – average household spending over the 12 weeks to December 29 fell by £8 to £1,055, while total volume sales fell by 0.7%.

Sales of Christmas puddings were down by 16%, while seasonal biscuits were 11% lower and turkey sales also fell by 1%, partly down to a shift from whole birds to smaller and cheaper joints such as crowns as cautious shoppers cut back on traditional and indulgent festive classics.

Sparkling wine sales dipped by 8%, but beer and still wine were more popular than 2018, with sales up 1% and 2% respectively.

Meanwhile, like-for-like prices only rose by a fractional 0.9%, which was good news for consumers looking to control festive bills but too low a level of inflation to boost the market.

Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar, said: "There was no sign of the post-election rush many had hoped for in the final weeks before Christmas, with shoppers carefully watching their budgets."

Among the bricks and mortar retailers, Lidl led the way with sales growth of 10.3%, while Aldi's sales were up by 5.9%.

Britain's fastest growing grocer overall was Ocado, with sales rising by 12.5%.

Sales at Sainsbury's fell by 0.7%, although its market share held relatively firm, dipping by just 0.1 percentage points to 16.0%, while Tesco's sales were 1.5% lower, with its share down by 0.4 percentage points to 27.4%.

Asda and Morrisons also saw sales fall by 2.2% and 2.9% respectively, with their market shares also dropping.

Source: Nielsen
(Nielsen/PA)

Separate data from Nielsen also shows that UK supermarkets experienced the lowest sales growth over the Christmas period in five years, at just 0.5% in the last four weeks.

Mike Watkins, Nielsen's UK head of retailer and business insight, said: "It is unsurprising that sales have remained relatively low over the December period, given that momentum continued to slow in the run-up to Christmas this year.

"Despite the festive season, consumers are evidently remaining cautious by taking advantage of greater price competition and special offers."

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