Data from NielsenIQ suggests consumers are set to spend £6.8bn at UK supermarkets in the two weeks leading up to Christmas Eve, up from £6.7bn in 2020.  

According to the insights company’s Total Till data, grocery sales fell 2.5% in the last four weeks ending 4 December, partly driven by a 10% fall in beers, wines and spirits sales.

However, grocery spend has started to pick up, with sales at -0.9% in the first week of December. NielsenIQ said this indicates that spend is set to increase in the next two weeks ahead of Christmas.

UK shoppers are also seeking to treat themselves to more premium and higher value items this Christmas, according to NielsenIQ, with data showing that the average value of the shopping basket is now 2.6% higher this year. Growth across products include celebration cakes (+15.6% to £15m), premixed alcoholic drinks (+13.7% to £25m), fresh olives (+7.4% to £9m), fresh pizza (+13.1% to £50m) and fresh ready meals (+11.3% to £195m).

Online grocery sales have fallen by 13% in the four weeks ending 4 December 2021, cycling lockdown comparatives in the same period in 2020. The online share of FMCG sales at UK supermarkets remains at 12.4% – similar to last month – with in-store sales up by +0.2%, indicating that shoppers are continuing to adopt omnichannel shopping behaviours, NielsenIQ said.

In terms of retailer performance in the last 12 weeks, the fastest growing food retailer is M&S (+9.1%), which has outpaced Lidl (+8.3%) and Aldi (+4.6%) and these are the only retailers to grow sales against this time last year. 

Mike Watkins, NielsenIQ’s UK head of retailer and business insight said: “Whilst our data may show that performance at the big four supermarkets is weaker, we must remember that this is against strong comparatives last year when the nation was in lockdown. For example, retailers with a larger convenience footprint may see higher fluctuations in sales. Equally a 10% fall in beers, wines and spirits (BWS) sales across the industry in the last four weeks will have impacted sales at the larger stores of many of the ‘big four’ supermarkets. Nevertheless, with two weeks to go there is still a lot to play for, with special prices from loyalty cards which are the promotional mechanic most likely to encourage shoppers to spend more this Christmas.

“This year more than ever, we can expect shoppers to plan activities and meal occasions around family and friends. The sales figures in November are partly due to lockdown comparatives but also shoppers delaying big shopping trips until the final week before Christmas when fresh foods and any remaining indulgences are purchased. For one in three households, good availability as well as low prices are the most important factors in deciding where to shop and we anticipate that 23 December is likely to be the peak day for trading at UK supermarkets.”

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