Festive sales fall flat as shoppers cut back

Date : 07 January 2020

Newly released GB market data from Kantar reveals only marginal growth for the crucial Christmas quarter. Sales in the 12 weeks to December 29th grew by just 0.2%, the slowest rate over Christmas since 2015 and down from 0.5% in the 12 weeks to December 1st.

This suggests that trading was particularly disappointing for the four weeks to December 29th. The weak trend is mirrored by Nielsen which found that sales in the four weeks to December 28th increased by 0.5%. but fell by 0.2% in the last two weeks of this period.

Volumes decline, despite low inflation

Kantar measured inflation for the period of 0.9%, slightly up on last month's 0.8%, implies that volumes fell by a worrying 0.7% as shoppers cut back on traditional and indulgent festive dishes. Sales of Christmas puddings were down 16% and seasonal biscuits by 11%. Turkey sales also fell by 1%, partly due to a shift in demand from whole birds to smaller joints such as turkey crowns. Sparkling wine sales were down by 8% but beer was up 1% and still wine by 2%.

Double digit growth for Lidl and Ocado

Once again, Ocado was the fastest growing grocer, an accolade it has achieved since June 2019. Of the physical retailers, Lidl grew by an impressive 10.3%, helped by new store openings and a modern and relatable Christams campaign. Aldi's 5.9%, weaker than the 7.9% it reported yesterday was fuelled by strong sales of the Specially Selected range. This grew faster than any other premium own brand.    

Big Four lose ground as shoppers make fewer trips

All four of the UK's largest retailers lost out as shoppers chose to make fewer trips to stores. Sainsbury's was the most resilient of the group with sales down by only 0.7%, helped by 7% growth in online sales. Morrisons disappointing result of -2.9% is mirrored by a today's downbeat trading statement with management citing uncertainty for customers and intense competition for the disappointing numbers. Tesco's sales decline of 1.5% was more marked than last month's -0.8%; it will release its own trading update on Thursday. 

Growth for Co-op and Iceland

There was festive cheer for Co-op as it benefited from its strategy to be the top-up retailer of choice over the Christmas period. Iceland meanwhile achieved growth of 1.3% helped by its partnership with Disney's Frozen 2 movie. Footfall was helped by a couponing campaign which attracted an extra 390,000 shoppers through its doors. While Waitrose's sales fell for the period, the drop was less marked than its Big Four rivals allowing its market share to remain unchanged.



12 weeks to 30 Dec 2018 (% share)

12 weeks to 29 Dec 2019 (% share)

Sales growth (Y-o-Y %)

Tesco 27.8 27.4 -1.5
Sainsbury's 16.1 16.0 -0.7
Asda 15.2 14.8 -2.2
Morrisons 10.6 10.3 -2.9
Aldi 7.4 7.8 +5.9
Co-op 5.9 6.1 +3.0
Lidl 5.3 5.9 +10.3
Waitrose & Partners 5.0 5.0 -0.9
Iceland 2.2 2.3 +1.3
Ocado 1.2 1.3 +12.5
Other multiples 1.7 1.6 -2.1
Total symbols & independents 1.5 1.6 +4.7

Source: Kantar

More Christmas insight for Retail Analysis subscribers

IGD's Christmas trading review and new year outlook will be available from mid January as a report and webinar.