Christmas sales still sluggish for UK supermarkets, IRI data shows

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Sales are still having a sluggish start to the festive season in the second two weeks of Christmas trading, according to analysis by market and shopper intelligence firm IRI of sales data for the UK’s major supermarkets.

IRI analysis of data collected for the two weeks ending 6 December 2014 for 12 Christmas super-categories shows sales are still down relative to last year, but that the rate of decline has slowed on wine and Champagne and even turned to growth on liqueurs and spirits.  Sales of wine and Champagne are down -2.8% (compared to -4.0% for 2w/e 29 November) and liqueurs and spirits up a significant 4.3% (compared to -1.4% for 2w/e 29 November). Beer and lager shows a sharp decline of -4.2%, down once again from the previous reading of -1.6%.

However, there is good news for retailers, with sales of cards, decorations and trees continuing to show growth over last year, up 3.1%, as well as after dinner confectionery and dates significantly outpacing last year’s performance.  The sales of whole turkeys have also started to move, with sales up year-on-year by 13% in the last two weeks.  There is also a moderate improvement in the decline for mince pies, while beef joints, after a good start, are showing the same level of decline as many other Christmas sectors at -5.1%.

Christmas super categories  % CHANGE % CHANGE
2 W/E 2 W/E
29-Nov-14 06-Dec-14
Wine & champagne -4.0 -2.8
Liqueur & spirits -1.4 4.3
Chocolate & Xmas selection/novelty packs -0.2 -0.3
Beer & lager -1.6 -4.2
Poultry -5.7 -7.3
Gammon beef bacon -5.1 -5.0
Crisps snacks nuts dates -0.5 -0.3
Cards, crackers, lights, wraps, trees decorations 3.5 3.1
Speciality cheese -0.1 0.4
Seasonal cakes puddings pies -1.6 -0.0
Frozen desserts & cream -7.8 -7.8
Stocks stuffing gravy -2.8 -0.8

Tim Eales, strategic insight director at IRI, said: “Sales are starting to ramp up as they always do in this period of Christmas trading, but it’s all a bit slower than it could be. Either supermarket sales are being lost to the discounters, or alternatively, shoppers are leaving it to the last few weeks. Most probably it’s a bit of each. Either way, it’s a tired start to the festive season for the supermarkets, with the exception of turkeys, after dinner mints, dates and a nice liqueur to wash it all down!.”