UK supermarkets experience lowest festive sales growth in five years

UK supermarkets have experienced the lowest sales growth over the Christmas period in five years, with sales growing by 0.5% in the last four weeks, according to new data.

The data, from data analytics company Nielsen, found that grocery sales reached their peak at £6.2bn over the two weeks to 28 December. This was a 0.2% decrease in comparison to the same two week period in 2018. The slump in sales has been attributed to several factors including increased competition, price cuts and lower inflation.

Nielsen’s data also revealed that whilst consumers visited supermarkets more often over the Christmas period, shoppers were purchasing fewer items and spending less each time.

In terms of traditional Christmas dinner groceries, sales in fresh turkey in the last four weeks reached £70m, a 0.5% uplift. However, sales for fresh beef dropped by -3.6%, and fruit and vegetables declined 1.4% to £858m.

The best performing categories over the festive period included soft drinks which increased by 2.4%, and in particular, cola, which reached £125m in the last four weeks, up 6.2%.

Looking at retailer performance over the 12 weeks to 28 December, Nielsen said discounters Aldi and Lidl continued to “outperform the major supermarkets”. Sainsbury’s was the most successful out of the ‘Big Four’, despite a fall in sales of -0.4%. In addition, Nielsen found strong performance performance from Co-op (3%) and Iceland (1.9%).

Mike Watkins, Nielsen’s UK head of retailer and business insight, said: “It is unsurprising that sales have remained relatively low over the December period, given that momentum continued to slow in the run up to Christmas this year.

“This has given us the lowest Christmas sales growth since 2014, with shoppers choosing to visit stores more frequently, but spending less. Despite the festive season, consumers are evidently remaining cautious by taking advantage of greater price competition and special offers.”

He added: “It’s possible that shoppers have also turned to healthier options as sales of no and low alcohol beer, cider and lager increasing by 24% in the last four weeks, whilst total category sales in beer, wine and spirits have declined slightly by 0.1%.

“However, consumers have opted to indulge through other means – which helps to explain the uplift in sales for confectionery and soft drinks over the festive period.”

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