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UK supermarkets gear up for £6.8bn surge in Christmas spending on groceries in the next two weeks

Shoppers have now returned in-store

UK shoppers are set to spend £6.8bn at UK supermarkets in the next two weeks leading up to Christmas Eve, up from £6.7bn in 2020, as shoppers prepare to celebrate Christmas at home with family and friends, reveals new data released today by NielsenIQ

Data from NielsenIQ reveals that Total Till grocery sales fell 2.5% in the last four weeks ending 4th December. However, grocery spend has already begun to pick up, with sales at -0.9%1 in the first week of December, indicating that spend is set to increase in the next two weeks ahead of Christmas.

Online grocery sales have fallen by 13% in the last four weeks ending 4th December 2021. However, this is against lockdown comparatives in the same period in 2020. The online share of FMCG sales at UK supermarkets remains at 12.4% – similar to last month – with in-store sales up by +0.2%  indicating that shoppers are continuing to adopt omnichannel shopping behaviours.

UK shoppers are seeking to treat themselves to more premium and higher value items this Christmas, with NielsenIQ data showing that the average value of the shopping basket is now 2.6% higher this year. Growth across products include celebration cakes (+15.6% to £15m), premixed alcoholic drinks (+13.7% to £25m), fresh olives (+7.4% to £9m) and fresh pizza  (+13.1% to £50m) and fresh ready meals (+11.3% to £195m) which highlight how shoppers are preferring to entertain and dine at home1.

In terms of retailer performance in the last 12 weeks, the fastest growing food retailer is M&S (+9.1%), which has outpaced Lidl (+8.3%) and Aldi (+4.6%) and these are the only retailers to grow sales against this time last year. 

Mike Watkins, NielsenIQ’s UK Head of Retailer and Business Insight, explains: “Whilst our data may show that performance at the big four supermarkets is weaker, we must remember that this is against strong comparatives last year when the nation was in lockdown. For example, retailers with a larger convenience footprint may see higher fluctuations in sales. Equally a10% fall in beers, wines and spirits (BWS) sales across the industry in the last four weeks will have impacted sales at the larger stores of many of the ‘big four’ supermarkets. Nevertheless, with two weeks to go there is still a lot to play for, with special prices from loyalty cards which are the promotional mechanic most likely to encourage shoppers to spend more this Christmas. 3

Watkins concludes: “This year more than ever, we can expect shoppers to plan activities and meal occasions around family and friends. The sales figures in November are partly due to lockdown comparatives but also shoppers delaying big shopping trips until the final week before Christmas when fresh foods and any remaining indulgences are purchased. For one in three households good availability as well as low prices are  the most important factors in deciding where to shop3 and we anticipate that the 23rd December is likely to be the peak day for trading at UK supermarkets.”

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