Splashing the cash: the top supermarket sellers over Christmas

As the war for the consumer pound grows fiercer, who won the holiday battle?

11 January 2018

When it comes to Christmas, it turns out consumers can’t get enough of mince pies, booze, Brussels sprouts and, er, gammon joints topped with gingerbread.

Not only have mince pie sales risen 13.2% year on year, but there was also a record £469 million spent on supermarket’s premium own-label lines in December, with chilled items, fresh meat and bakery products featuring prominently, reveal figures from Kantar Worldpanel.

Overall, supermarket sales have increased by 3.8% in the last three months, with an additional £1bn ringing through the tills compared to the same festive period last year.

So what were the top items in Santa’s sack this year?

Millions and millions of mince pies

UK shoppers are rather traditional when it comes to their Christmas fare.

Lidl sold roughly 600 tonnes of Brussels sprouts and 17 million mince pies. Deluxe offerings delighted consumers: its 24-month matured Christmas pudding, claimed to be a world first by the supermarket, was one of the best-selling products in the range, contributing to a 60% increase in its luxury Christmas pudding sales.

It paid off big time, as Lidl was the fastest-growing supermarket over the Christmas period, with sales up 16% compared to 2016, while the supermarket experienced its highest ever footfall.

But it seems peak vegan hasn’t hit Christmas roasts. Overall, fresh meat and poultry sales at Lidl grew by 17% for the period, including a 10% increase in turkey, which was helped along by its Birchwood Farm's whole, fresh birds.

Lidl’s store expansion also continued in December, with nine new stores opening, increasing the retailer’s reach to 693 locations at the end the year, up from 650 at the close of 2016.

While mince pies were also a top seller for Aldi – 4 million flew off the shelves – some more unusual items did a roaring trade as well, including sweet-cured gammon joints topped with a gingerbread crumb and Aberdeen Angus beef roasting joints. On top of that, Aldi sold more than 100 million packs of veg, including parsnips, sprouts and carrots.

The German discount chain saw year-on-year UK sales increase by more than 15% during the final month of 2017, pushing total annual intake in the UK and Ireland beyond the £10bn barrier for the first time.

With 76 new stores opened last year, bringing its total to 762, Aldi continues to pursue its long-term strategy to have 1,000 stores across the UK by 2022.

For the Co-op, if the 16 million mince pies it sold were laid out in a line, they would have stretched from its support centre in Manchester to Paris. Seasonal offerings sold over £61m, 9% more than this time last year, and it achieved a 6.2% rise in like-for-like sales. Co-op is pushing ahead with an aggressive expansion programme, announcing plans to open an additional 100 food shops this year.

Premium ranges pop

No word on how many mince pies were munched on from Sainsbury’s, but the 25p Christmas vegetable line certainly helped it to secure punters, with total retail sales up 1.2% and like-for-like sales up 1.1%. The supermarket launched 185 new foods for Christmas, almost half of which were in its premium Taste the Difference range

Fresh products like salmon found their way to festivities from Tesco. The UK’s biggest supermarket reported like-for-like sales growth of 1.9% for its UK stores, including a 3.4% rise in food sales over the Christmas period.

Sales of Morrisons’ premium The Best range soared by 25%, and it sold 8.8% more bags of Christmas vegetables with a three-for-£1 deal. It performed well in the last six weeks, with sales rising by 3.7% compared to last year.

Festive flops

Not all the supermarkets had such a merry Christmas.

Waitrose suffered its worst Yuletide since 2006, posting a 1.4% fall in like-for-like sales, but its overall sales were up by just over 1% to £859.8m. And while there were more customers, shoppers were enticed by promotional items, with around 1,800 products out of a total of 20,000 on sale, which brought down the cost of a basket. Around 40% of products sold over Christmas were on promotion, compared to around 20% in previous years.

There was little good cheer for Marks and Spencer either. Sales in its food halls were down 0.4%, and Chief Executive Steve Rowe said ongoing trading pressures on the retailer’s food business continued in the lead up to Christmas, as consumer spending and choices reflected tighter budgets.

With cash-strapped shoppers continuing to watch what they spend, it will be interesting to see the impact these festive figures have on the wider context of 2018.

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