Record Christmas grocery sales for UK supermarkets

By Niamh Michail

- Last updated on GMT

Supermarkets posted record sales during the Christmas trading period in the UK, according to figures from market research company Kantar Worldpanel.

UK consumers spent an extra £450 million (€500.9m) on groceries during the 12 weeks leading up to 30 December 2018, compared to the same period last year, said Kantar.

“Despite the supermarket sector growing at 1.6% – its slowest rate since March 2017 – the retailers clocked in another record-breaking Christmas as households racked up an average spend of £383 (€427) in grocery bills for the month of December​,” said ​Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight.

Saturday 22 December proved to be the busiest shopping day of the year: more than half of all households visited one of the grocers in a last-minute Christmas dash, with 1.7 million additional customers walking through the aisles compared to the Saturday before," ​he said.

“Although the grocers achieved record sales, overall spend was actually tempered by lower inflation of 1.3% – that’s less than half the level of like-for-like inflation of 3.6% which was recorded in Christmas 2017. This slower inflation rate helped shoppers to manage their festive budgets, with 60% of customers looking to make savvier decisions to make their money go further over the holidays.” 

Festive-themed confectionery saw a 7% increase in sales while non-alcoholic beer brought in sales of £7.6 million (€8.5m).

Asda’s ‘Extra Special’ range was the fastest growing premium line of the major retailers’ private label brands. This allowed the supermarket to achieve growth of 0.7% and meant it “come out top” among the big four, said McKevitt.

He added: “Asda was also bolstered by a standout online performance as its e-commerce sales rocketed by 12%.”​ 

Hard discounters also continued to make inroads, with two-thirds of all households shopping at either Aldi or Lidl over the 12-week period.

This culminated in a highest-ever combined Christmas market share of 12.8%, according to Kantar WorldPanel.

McKevitt added: ​“Unlike its high street counterpart, the grocery market has been less affected by the move to online. Although e-commerce is growing – up 3.9% compared to this time last year – online grocery shopping is failing to attract new customers. Instead, growth stemmed from existing customers spending an additional £9.07 (€10) over the month of December. Though not included in our till roll data set, Amazon remains one to watch as its FMCG sales jumped by 16% over the 12-week period.”

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