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    Busiest Christmas since 2019 for grocery retail as record numbers hit shops in December  

    Shoppers walks past sale signage on Regent Street during the Boxing Day sales, in London, Britain, December 29, 2023. REUTERS/Isabel Infantes

    Supermarkets saw their highest level of transactions in December since 2019, as total take-home grocery sales grew in value by seven per cent while the number of items bought rose by two per cent, latest figures from market research firm Kantar have shown.

    Britons made 488 million trips to the supermarkets over the four weeks to 24 December, 12 million more than last year and the largest number at Christmas since pre-pandemic times.

    A record £13.7 billion passed through the tills, with the average household spending an all-time high of £477 across the month, an increase of £28 on 2022.

    “As we expected, this Christmas was a whopper,” Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar, commented.

    “Friday 22 December turned out to be the most popular shopping day, when just over 25 million trips were made and consumers spent £803 million in physical stores – that’s 85 per cent more than the average Friday in 2023. Online’s share of the market held steady at 11.6 per cent, as nearly one in five households got a delivery in for the big day.”

    Grocery price inflation fell to 6.7 per cent in December, its lowest level since April 2022, but many consumers are still feeling the pinch.

    “Retailers were clearly working hard during the festive period to offer best value and win over shoppers, and promotions were central to their strategy,” McKevitt said.

    “Nearly one third of all spend in the four weeks to Christmas Eve was made on items with some kind of offer, the highest level since December 2020 and £823 million more than last year.”

    Consumers’ appetite for the traditional Christmas dinner was particularly strong in 2023, with volumes of parsnips, sprouts and potatoes up 12 per cent, nine per cent and eight per cent respectively, and chilled gravy up by 11 per cent. Festive meats including pigs in blankets, sausages, hams and, of course, turkeys were also up by six per cent collectively.

    However, mince pies and Christmas puddings did buck the trend, with volumes falling by four per cent and 7 per cent respectively.

    Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrisons and Waitrose accounted for a combined market share of 70 per cent during the 12 weeks to 24 December.

    “The traditional retailers always tend to do well in the run up to Christmas and this year was no exception,” McKevitt commented.

    “Supermarkets saw especially strong performances for their own-label lines, with sales of premium ranges like Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference and Tesco Finest surging by 11.9 per cent compared with last year to hit £790 million – accounting for 5.7 per cent of all grocery sales. Branded sales rose by 6.0 per cent during the same period.”

    Lidl and Aldi continue to be the fastest growing grocers year on year and the discounters hit their highest ever market shares for the Christmas period. Lidl increased sales by 13.8 per cent, while Aldi saw growth of 9.9 per cent.

    Symbols and independents made a four per cent increase in sales since last year.

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