Sales slow for crucial period

Christmas shopping
Early Christmas shoppers did not prove to be big spenders in the UK this year.

GROCERY sales in the UK were “unexpectedly slow” while approaching the peak of the ‘golden quarter’ of festive trading.

Figures from Kantar for the 12 weeks to 1 December showed that supermarket sales growth slowed to 0.5%, with shoppers making one fewer visit to the shops than over the same period in 2018.

Black Friday brought a limited boost, with only 5% of Black Friday deal-hunters purchasing something from a grocer.

But for Lidl, Aldi, the Co-op, Ocado and Iceland, there was some good news as they managed to grow their sales. Symbols and independents were also up, by 6.7%, a growth rate that was second only to Lidl.

Nielsen also recorded a disappointing start to the festive period, finding that grocery sales grew by just 0.2% in the four weeks to 30 November.

The firm said the shortfall in growth represented a significant drop in comparison to the same period last year (+2.3%), and could in part be attributed to the busy Black Friday sales period, Nielsen assessed that “cautious shoppers” were likely changing their shopping habits by moving away from a weekly grocery shop to take advantage of the offers available.

The firms data revealed that UK supermarkets experienced a decline of 0.7% in sales during the Black Friday week, suggesting that non-food bargain-hunting may have taken precedence with consumers over food and drink purchases.

Nielsen found that all of the “major supermarkets” in the UK had experienced a decline in sales during this crucial 12 week period.

Mike Watkins, Nielsen’s UK head of retailer and business insight, said: “Though it has been a disappointing start to Christmas, we must remember that around one third of shoppers never intended to start their Christmas grocery shopping until December.”