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Christmas Leftovers – Winter is Coming!

Another year over, another one has just begun. Finally, the turkey carcass has been boiled down to soup. The tree is sitting proudly on top of the compost heap and you will face the issue of the lights you trod on while packing them away next December! Now, it is time to sit back, take stock, and think about who won the big grocery sales battle for Christmas 2018.

So, Who Were the Christmas Winners and Losers in Grocery Land This Year?

Well, simply put no one……………. perhaps?

Kantar Worldpanel shows the UK grocery market for the 12 weeks of Christmas (to 30 December 2018) as showing 1.6% growth. However, with inflation at 1.3% that’s a lot of hard work, effort and energy to shift just 0.3% of extra stuff!

Grocery Sales, Christmas 2018, No winner

The dreadful woes of the general merchandise retailers are well documented with HMV collapsing…. again…. and Debenhams contorting in what is certainly it’s eventual death throes.

But people have to eat. So despite the general malaise around the High Street and worries about Brexit and the wider economy, the supermarkets should have done well…. shouldn’t they?

And in relative, but only relative terms they did. Anyone posting positive like for like sales in the current environment can quite rightly give themselves a big post festive pat on the back.

The Winners [and the Not Quite so Much Winners] in the Grocery Sales War

Well, again it was the Discounters leading the field. Staggeringly over two-thirds of us Brits shopped in either Aldi or Lidl over the festive period! (Kantar Worldpanel) Driving 10.4% and 9.4% growth respectively. Sharp pricing, great quality and value and very tempting premium seasonal ranges mean these two now have a combined 12.8% market share – well bigger than Morrisons!

In perhaps a surprise second place was the CoOp, posting a highly respectable 3.2% growth. Lots more locally convenient stores, improved quality and better pricing seem to be the trick the CoOp is turning quite successfully.

And what of the traditional ‘Big 4’. The clear winner was Tesco posting a headline 2.2% growth in like for like sales in its grocery food business. They are well ahead of Morrisons at 1.3%, Asda at 0.5% and Sainsbury’s at 0.4% (lies damn lies and statistics! Sainsbury’s no longer strip out grocery like for like in their reporting. The 0.4% is total grocery sales, but with few new stores openings the figure is probably relatively accurate as a comparison to Tesco and Morrisons).

Grocery Sales, Christmas 2018, Winter is Coming

So, a big well done to Tesco, top of the festive tree for Christmas 2018. But, the celebrations will be muted in Welwyn Garden City as dark clouds are gathering across grocery land and a bitter, bleak winter may be about to bite – Yes, Winter is Coming!

Sales Growth Slowing

The Christmas figures show a sharp slowdown in sales growth from previous quarters. Tesco 2.5% to 0.7%, Morrisons 2.5% to 1.3%, Sainsbury’s 2.0% to 0.4%.

So, we the great British public did our dutiful bit at Christmas and ate and drank ourselves merry amid the general gloom elsewhere but underlying, the pressures and headwinds of the economy, Brexit et al. are now not only buffeting with full force the High Street and general merchandisers but slowly, slowly undermining our great grocers.

They are all aware of the pressures and every CEO was careful to warn the City in their trading updates that times are about to get a whole lot tougher and maybe it won’t just be the economy……stupid!

A Growing Threat…

Hidden away in Kantars Christmas reporting was the mention that Amazon grew its grocery sales by 16%…………….who then really won the battle for Christmas?…….and may now be preparing for war……………………!


For further grocery industry tips, take a look at our Ultimate Guide to Category Management and our Category Management YouTube Channel. Also, check out our award-winning blog to see more Category Management tips and articles.

Andrew Grant

About Andrew Grant

Andrew has extensive Commercial Buying and Marketing experience gained at a senior level with a number of the UK’s largest and most respected retailers. He combines this comprehensive category knowledge with highly developed negotiation skills and an in-depth experience of category management and business development planning gained trading with major blue chip FMCG suppliers.

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