BWS sales grew by 5.7% over Christmas, making it the second best performing FMCG category and helping drive the market to its best festive performance in four years (Nielsen, four weeks to December 31, 2016).

Confectionary was the only grocery category to outperform BWS as sales of sweets and chocolate grew 9.5% over Christmas.

But BWS grew ahead of cheese, meat, soft drinks and general merchandise, which all enjoyed strong sales.

It all contributed to the best Christmas trading period since 2012 as overall sales grew 3.3%.

Mike Watkins, Nielsen’s UK head of retailer and business insight, said: “Shoppers left it particularly late this year, not only because there was an extra day to do the big Christmas shop but the mild weather meant there was no need to visit the shops to stock up in advance, which benefited larger stores in particular.”

Spend in that final two weeks alone was £5.9 billion.

The percentage of purchases that went on promotion dropped from 31% last Christmas to 27% this year – the lowest for six years – and Watkins attributed the strong performance to supermarkets simplifying their promotional strategies. “Stronger communication on price cuts and less complicated promotions helped capture the seasonal and discretionary spend which had been missing in action for much of 2016,” he said.