Shoppers prepare early for 'extra special festive season' - Kantar

Shoppers are preparing for Christmas early this year as they celebrate their lockdown freedom with 4.7 million households buying mince pies in October and 1.6 million buying Christmas puddings.

New research from Kantar shows that shoppers are keen to make the most of calendar milestones this year as they prepare for an "extra special festive season".

Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar, said: “After a tough 18 months, consumers are gearing up for bigger and better celebrations.

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"An unrestricted Halloween drove sales of pumpkins up 26 per cent in the four weeks to 31 October, and with trick or treating back on the cards seasonal confectionery grew by 27 per cent.

Nearly 5 million households bought mince pies in October

“With Christmas ads out earlier than ever and Christmas stock on the shelves, we’re keen to prepare early this year so we can dive head first into festivities.

"4.7 million households bought mince pies this month. Customers are also getting ahead on shopping for the big day itself.

"Frozen poultry sales are 27 per cent higher year on year, with people spending an additional £6.1m in the latest four weeks. 1.6 million households bought their Christmas pudding this month as well, 400,000 more than last year.”

He said that growth in frozen poultry is being driven by strong demand for turkey rather than chicken.

"The growth is very much coming from turkey rolls and roasts," said Mr McKevitt.

"Frozen whole turkeys are selling well as well, It's all about turkeys, not chicken."

Asked whether people are buying frozen turkeys early as they are worried about Christmas shortages, Mr McKevitt said: "Well, I think some people definitely are.

"They've listened to what the retailers have been saying. Everyone has got fresh memories of not being able to get what they wanted during the last 18 months. People who have got space in their freezer are buying early. I think that's definitely behind the increase."

He said that this Christmas should be a good one for the supermarkets.

"I think it's going to be a fairly decent Christmas," he added.

"People couldn't see friends and family last year so I think people, without splashing out, without being ridiculous, are going to want to celebrate and meet people because they can.

"The unknown is just how much spending is going to head to pubs, bars and restaurants, but I sense that's not going to be as big as it usually is. People are still working from home, some people are still nervous about going out in enclosed public spaces.

"The Covid rates are not great so I think we're likely to see a pretty good Christmas for retailers this year and I think we'll see it a bit earlier."

The Kantar research showed that take home grocery sales fell 1.9 per cent over the 12 weeks to October 31. Although in decline compared with the same 12 weeks in 2020, sales are still 7.3 per cent higher than in 2019.

Mr McKevitt said: “Our shopping habits are beginning to settle at a new baseline as we’ve adapted our lifestyles through the pandemic.

"The general trend towards bigger, less frequent trips to the supermarket seems set to stay. Households visited the supermarket 15.7 times in the past month on average.

"That’s a slight increase from the 15.3 trips we saw at this time in 2020, but consumers are still making 40 million fewer trips per month than they were in 2019. At this rate of change, it would take three years to get back to our old shopping patterns."

Kantar said that online sales have also levelled out.

"For the second month in a row, digital sales accounted for 12.4 per cent of the total grocery market," said Mr McKevitt.

"A fifth of households consistently order groceries online each month, becoming long term converts.”

Rising Covid-19 infections this month might not be significantly affecting how we shop, but people are picking up more healthcare products to help manage symptoms of winter colds and flu.

Mr McKevitt said: “As we head into winter consumers are stocking up on products to help them feel better.

"Sales of cold treatments this month doubled compared with last year, while cough liquids shot up 147 per cent.”

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