UK shoppers spend £200m on Christmas spirits in first two weeks of December, IRI reports

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While overall supermarket sales are down, UK shoppers are spending more on Spirits in the run up to Christmas, according to the latest retail data from global insight leader IRI. Figures from IRI’s Retail Advantage, which measures major UK grocery multiples, show total FMCG sales (value) of £4.9bn in the two weeks to 12 December 2015, down 1.6%. Food sales totalled £3.5bn, down 1.3%, while non-food sales were £1.4bn, down 2.1% over the two-week period.

The figures also show that shoppers spent over £630m in total on Beers, Wines and Spirits (BWS), up 3.3% over last year. Of this, over £200m was spent on Spirits alone – up 3.8% – the equivalent of an extra £7m over the same period last year.

Shoppers spent nearly £74m on Whisky and around £64.5m on White Spirits (Vodka and Gin) up 5.6% in the two-week period, with Rum showing a slight increase of 2.3% over last year.

Sales of sparkling wines are also up by 11.6% over the two weeks to 12 December, including Prosecco, which, according to IRI data earlier this year, has now replaced Champagne as the nation’s favourite fizz, with sales growth of 72% over the last year, adding £142m to the grocery sector.

While booze sales are up, more traditional Christmas fare is proving a turn-off so far, with sales of Christmas Cakes and Puddings down 5.3%, Salty Snacks down 3.0% and Bacon, Gammon and Sausages down 13.2%.

“While consumers get into the spirit of Christmas, literally in many cases, it seems that some of the more traditional Christmas categories are in decline, including cakes and desserts, while Christmas baking items are also down,” according to Martin Wood, head of strategic insight, retail solutions &innovation, IRI. “This could be down to people taking a more healthy approach to the big day, but it’s probably a little too early to say whether this trend will continue and we expect figures to bounce back during a busy Christmas shopping period this week.

“It’s interesting to see that sausages and bacon, Christmas staples, continue to decline sharply following the recent World Health Organisation report linking them to cancer. We revealed last month that the scare had wiped 10%, the equivalent of £10m per month, off sales of bacon and sausages and it’s very clear that this decline is set to continue, perhaps even over the Christmas period.”

The picture is worse for non-food. IRI data shows that Electricals, Music and Gaming, which are all seeing strong growth online, have been hit badly this year, down 17.8% in the two weeks to 12 December. However, there is good news with some areas holding up well, including Gardening, Plants and Flowers, Party Accessories, Gift Wrap and Toiletries (including fragrances, cosmetics and male toiletries).

All figures quoted are from the two-week period ending 12 December 2015.