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    Shoppers splash out on grocery in December as sales reach £11.7 billion

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    Grocery sales reached £31.7 billion over the 12 weeks to 26 December 2021 as shoppers splurged on Christmas favourites, according to the latest figures from Kantar. Sales hit £11.7bn over the month of December alone.

    Continuing a trend of year on year decline, but growth when compared to the pre-pandemic, sales were down by 3 per cent in the 12-week period from 2020 and 8 per cent stronger than in 2019. Symbol and independents, who enjoyed stronger sales last year, saw 10.5 per cent decline year on year, but 5 per cent growth from 2019.

    The December spend figure is down just 0.2 per cent on record 2020 sales when several areas faced restrictions, and Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar, noted that people once again chose to celebrate at home as Covid-19 cases began to rise after the Omicron coronavirus variant.

    “The data suggests that while there weren’t formal rules in place across the UK this year, many people celebrated at home again due to Omicron. We can really see just how much spending accelerated in December compared with earlier in the year by looking at the average trend during March to November when sales were down by 2.5 per cent against 2020,” he said.

    While spending on many traditional Christmas dinner items was broadly similar compared with last year, there was ample evidence of people treating themselves and guests, he added. Sales of mince pies reached £62 million in December, a jump of 7 per cent on 2020. A similar amount, £61 million, was spent on Christmas chocolates too, with sales soaring by 21 per cent.

    “It looks like people came prepared for extra indulgent celebrations and indigestion remedy sales also rose by 8 per cent. More bitter was the decline in sprout sales, which dipped by 3 per cent, but the traditional green hasn’t fallen out of favour just yet as almost half of all households in Britain served them up in December,” McKevitt commented.

    Rising prices also pushed up shopping budgets as grocery price inflation reached 3.5 per cent in December, adding nearly £15 to shoppers’ average monthly grocery bill.

    “We saw prices rise faster for a short while in Spring 2020 when promotions were cut to maintain product availability, but before that you would have to go back nearly four years to January 2018 to see inflation running higher,” McKevitt said.

    As is traditional, the busiest shopping day of the year was 23 December. “Food and drink spend peaked two days before Christmas. The real driver of bumper sales on 23 December wasn’t online though, as we saw the largest number of in-store visits since March 2020 this month,” McKevitt said.

    Despite rising Covid-19 case numbers, online sales fell in December by 3.7 per cent against 2020 and accounted for 12.2 per cent of sales.

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