Average household spent more than £1,000 on food before Christmas

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Consumers shrugged off a sluggish economy to spend a record £1,054 on groceries in the three months until Christmas, figures show.

The latest grocery market share figures from Kantar Worldpanel, published today, showed that shoppers continued to trade up to more expensive options with a record £469 million spent on premium own label lines in December alone with chilled items, fresh meat and bakery featuring prominently.

Grocery markets soars

Grocery markets soars

Among the retailers, Aldi and Lidl are level pegging in the battle to be the nation’s fastest growing supermarket, both growing sales by 16.8% year on year.

Tesco was the fastest growing of the big four supermarkets, with sales up 3.1% during the past 12 weeks. With Christmas Day falling on a Monday this year, Tesco Express, like other convenience stores, benefitted from restricted Sunday opening hours for larger supermarkets and were able to capitalise on consumers preferring to shop closer to home immediately before the big day.

Meanwhile, Asda’s sales grew by 2.2% despiute the grocer’s market share having declined by 0.2 percentage points to 15.3%. The news comes after yet another round of job cuts at its head office with the firm having made significant culls of staffing in the last 18 months.

Morrisons increased sales by 2.1% – with strongest growth coming from ambient and frozen foods – though the grocer’s market share fell by 0.2 percentage points to 10.7%. Sainsbury’s managed to increase sales across its convenience stores, larger supermarkets and online deliveries, growing overall by 2.0%. This is against the backdrop of the retailer’s continuing strategy of moving away from promotions, selling 5.6% fewer items on offer than during the same period last year. Sainsbury’s market share fell by 0.3 percentage points to 16.4%.

Sales at Waitrose increased by 2.3%, but fell by 0.2% at Co-op, as the retailers captured 5.2% and 5.8% of the market respectively. Iceland grew sales by 2.9%. Supported by a 7% boost for own label sales, more than half of the increase came from products beyond the retailer’s traditional frozen lines.

Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar Worldpanel, comments: “Overall supermarket sales increased in value by 3.8%, with an additional £1 billion ringing through the tills compared to the same festive period last year. Shoppers parted with £747 million on 22 December alone, making the Friday before Christmas the busiest shopping day ever recorded. For most of the year, location tends to be the most important factor in choosing where to shop, but over Christmas customers are actually prepared to travel further in search of specific festive products or better value.”

Mince pie sales rose by 13.2% year on year, washed down with £3.9 billion worth of alcohol over the 12 weeks. Alcohol sales grew by 5.1% year on year, with spirits leading the charge: up 7.6% as consumers favoured festive tipples featuring gin and whisky. Fraser McKevitt continues: “Shoppers are splashing out despite fewer promotions to tempt them. Only 36% of spending was on items on offer this year – the lowest level of promotional activity at Christmas since 2009. Consumers are still facing more expensive groceries: like for like prices rose by 3.7% in the 12 weeks to 31 December, a slight increase on the 3.6% rise reported last month.”

Fraser McKevitt explains: “In some ways Christmas is a tricky time for the discounters: they tend to lose a little market share compared to earlier in the year as many shoppers return to the more traditional supermarkets in search of old favourites. Rising to the challenge, Aldi and Lidl collectively managed to attract nearly one million additional households during the past three months. Aldi increased market share by 0.8 percentage points year on year to capture 6.8% of the market, with 39% of trips including at least one product from its premium Specially Selected range. Meanwhile, Lidl grew market share by 0.6 percentage points to stand at 5.0%, helped by a 22% sales increase in the dairy aisle and a £23 million boost from fresh produce.”