Sales at the UK grocery multiples reached a record breaking £4.8 billion during the week ending 23rd December 2023, showing a slight uplift as compared to Christmas in 2022, reveals new data released on Tuesday (9) by NIQ.
NIQ data shows that UK shoppers took advantage this year of a full week of trading with the opportunity for extra supermarket visits up to Christmas Eve. Over the four weeks to the 30th December and across all channels, shoppers spent £657m more on groceries compared with the same period last year.
As UK consumers used the festive period as a time to unwind and gather with family and friends, this impacted sales in several categories. However, this year shoppers focussed on essentials and topped up with affordable treats – economising on discretionary spend such as general merchandise to afford to trade up in food and drink. Affordable treats included crackers and savoury biscuits (+15 per cent), ice cream (+15 per cent), pickles (+15 per cent) and olives and antipasti (+15 per cent). There was also growth in crisps and snacks (+6.3 per cent) and soft drinks (+7.4 per cent).
However, despite the festive season also being a time to entertain and celebrate, sales uplifts for beers, wines and spirits (BWS) were disappointing and it was one area where shoppers bought less. This included Champagne (value sales -5.8 per cent), port (-4.3 per cent), sparkling wine (-2.7 per cent) and spirits (-2.0 per cent).
Promotions increased to 26.5 per cent of FMCG sales which is a 4 year high which is unusual during December and is due to price competition remaining intense with price cuts and extended loyalty scheme discounts on seasonal items.
Across all of FMCG, private label growth in December remained strong at +7.7 per cent and ahead of brands (+3.9 per cent) with retailers highlighting the quality as well as the value of premium private label items.
Mike Watkins, NIQ’s UK head of retailer and business insight, said, “With a full week of shopping before Christmas day and then the benefit of another week to spend in the build up to New Years Eve, it was an omnichannel Christmas. Shoppers mixed and matched across the month to take advantage of the convenience of an early online delivery or click and collect and then store visits for last minute shopping for fresh and festive food for family, friends and the new year celebrations. However, with shoppers spending around 18 per cent more on their groceries than two years ago, many were mindful of overspending, economised early in the quarter and overall bought less volume in eight out of the 12 weeks.”
“With low everyday pricing and loyalty card savings now key strategies across the industry, retailers will need to refocus on how they differentiate and offer other reasons to choose their stores to help sales growth and rebuild store equity. Yet promotions will still be important for footfall and sales growth, particularly after two years of falling FMCG volumes due to inflation.”
Watkins concludes, “Looking ahead, it’s likely that the cautious shopper sentiment seen in 2023 will continue for the first part of 2024 but from late Spring onwards we can anticipate confidence slowly improving. The NIQ outlook for 2024 is that Total Till growths will be around +5 per cent but this depends on where food inflation lands during the year. Even so we can expect to see FMCG volumes turning positive as the year progresses.”