Healthy trolley fruit and vegetables supermarket

Christmas sales at Britain’s supermarkets rose at their slowest rate since 2015 with no sign of the post-election rush that many had hoped for before the festive period.

The latest grocery market share figures from Kantarshow year-on-year supermarket sales grew by just 0.2 per cent in the 12 weeks to 29 December, however retailers still took a record £29.3 billion in the so-called golden quarter. This was up £50 million on last year.

Less Christmas classics

Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar, said: “Many of us cut back on traditional and indulgent festive classics. Sales of Christmas puddings were down by 16 per cent, while seasonal biscuits were 11 per cent lower. Turkey sales also fell by one per cent, partly down to a shift from whole birds to smaller and cheaper joints such as crowns.”

He added:“Shoppers also popped fewer corks this year, as sparkling wine sales dipped by eight per cent. However, both beer, up one per cent, and still wine, up two per cent, were more popular than in 2018.

“As predicted, Monday 23 December was easily the single busiest shopping day of 2019 – and indeed the largest shopping day ever recorded – worth £798m as the nation stocked up before Christmas Eve.”

Overall, average household spending over the 12 weeks fell by £8 to £1,055, while total volume sales fell by 0.7 per cent. Meanwhile, like-for-like prices only rose by a fractional 0.9 per cent, which was good news for consumers looking to control festive bills, but the low level of inflation did little to boost the market.

Discounters enjoy best Christmas ever

Among the bricks and mortar retailers, Lidl led the way with sales growth of 10.3 per cent over the quarter. It performed particularly strongly with branded products, where sales were up 24 per cent.

Together with Aldi, the discount retailers took their highest ever combined Christmas market share.

“At the end of the decade, it’s worth remembering just how quickly Lidl and Aldi have grown,” McKevitt said.“Their current combined market share of 13.7 per cent is more than treble what they held in December 2009, an unprecedented increase over the course of ten years.”

Individually, Aldi’s sales were up by 5.9 per cent, and its market share grew by 0.4 percentage points to 7.8 per cent.

Sales of the supermarket’s Specially Selected range rose by £1m, the highest rate among all retailer premium own label lines.

This year’s ‘Kevin the Carrot’ adverts also went down well with shoppers, as the addition of new characters to the story helped to sell 2,498 tonnes of sprouts – an increase of 44 per cent on last year.

Ocado grows fastest

Britain’s fastest growing grocer overall was Ocado, with sales rising by 12.5 per cent. The online retailer has now been the fastest grower since June 2019.

The slow market made it particularly difficult for the largest retailers to increase sales. The Big Four grocers were especially impacted by customers choosing to make one fewer trip to stores in the latest period.

Big Four suffer

Sales at Sainsbury’s fell by 0.7 per cent, although its market share held relatively firm dipping by just 0.1 percentage points to 16 per cent. Sainsbury’s online sales were a highlight however, increasing by seven per cent, with a total 1.1m users over the past 12 weeks.

Meanwhile, Tesco sales were 1.5 per cent lower, with its share down by 0.4 percentage points to 27.4 per cent. Asda and Morrisons also saw sales fall by 2.2 per cent and 2.9 per cent respectively, with their market shares also dropping.

Strong period for Co-op and Iceland

Co-op’s three per cent growth was ahead of the market, and enough to increase its share by 0.2 percentage points to 6.1 per cent. Much of its success was fuelled by chilled products, with fresh poultry sales up by 10 per cent and convenience items like pizza up nine per cent.

Waitrose’s market share remained at five per cent, unaffected by a 0.9 per cent fall in sales.

Iceland on the other hand enjoyed a bright festive spell,as McKevitt explains:“Iceland’s sales rose by 1.3 per cent as its recent newspaper coupon campaign helped to attract an extra 390,000 shoppers through its doors.

“As well as increasing sales of frozen food, other categories which performed particularly well included soft drinks – up by 21 per cent. Iceland was one of the five retailers to win market share, gaining an extra 0.1 percentage points to stand at 2.3 per cent.'