Drinks aisles rescue supermarkets as festive grocery sales struggle

The beers, wines and spirits categories posted strong enough growth in the two weeks of Christmas and New Year to offset disappointing results elsewhere in food, according to the latest figures from IRI.

Drinks sales were up 11.5% year on year to £515.3 million in the week ending 26 December and 3% to £251.1 million in the week ending January 2, whereas the data for total food sales shows respectively growth of 8.8% and a decline of 3.7% for the two weeks.

Overall, the category sold more than twice the weekly average for the rest of the year.

Drinks growth was driven by sparkling wines and Champagne, sales of which were up 18%, or £15 million, over the two-week period year on year.

The year-end sales spike topped a successful 2015 for sparkling wines, which grew by 14.5% on 2014 to £905 million.

Sales of spirits were up £20 million for the fortnight, hitting £164 million in the Christmas week and £70 million the week after.

Sales of beer and lager were up £10.7 million across the two weeks.

However, grocery sales overall were down 0.6% year on year, with food sales dropping 1.2% year-on-year. Non-food categories held steady, falling back just 0.2%.

Tim Eales, strategic insight director at IRI, said: “The major multiples did hold their own to a large extent over the festive period, helped by a strong performance from the beers, wines and spirits categories.

“This is one area where supermarkets may not lose so much to the discounters – when buying alcohol for a special occasion or a gift, people want a brand name on the bottle.”

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