Christmas hasn’t arrived early for the UK supermarkets, IRI data shows

The Christmas trading period may have officially started for the UK’s major supermarkets (from w/c 17 November 2014) but the sales increases that the festive period usually brings are so far this year nowhere to be seen for most of the categories that are associated with Christmas. This is according to analysis by market and shopper intelligence firm IRI of sales data for the UK’s five major supermarkets as well as other independent retailers and convenience stores.

The analysis by IRI was conducted using data collected from Sunday 16 November to Saturday 29November for 12 Christmas super-categories.

The only super-category showing sales growth in the first two weeks of Christmas trading (compared to the same period last year) was decorations, cards, crackers and Christmas trees with sales up 3.3% to just under £32m.

Sales of mince pies, pickled onions and brussel sprouts are down compared to the previous year by -12%, -16% and -23% respectively.

A large proportion of Christmas spend is usually on alcohol. Early signs of sparkle however are not obvious with sales of wine and champagne down by -4.1%, liqueurs and spirits by -1.4% and beer and lager by -1.6%.

Christmas super categories            %age change in sales value for 2 weeks ending 29 November 2014 compared to same period in 2013
Wine & champagne -4.1
Liqueur & spirits -1.4
Chocolate & xmas selection/novelty packs -0.3
Beer & lager -1.6
Poultry -5.9
Gammon beef bacon -5.0
Crisps, snacks nuts dates -0.6
Cards crackers lights wraps trees decos 3.3
Speciality cheese -0.1
Seasonal cakes puddings pies -1.6
Frozen desserts & cream -7.9
Stocks stuffing gravy -2.9

Some individual product categories however are showing early growth including dates, up by 11% to just over £1m and Christmas puddings, up by 2% to £3.7m.

Tim Eales, strategic insight director at IRI, said: “Prices usually start to rise just before Christmas as the deep promotions that retailers use throughout the year ease off a little, so that they can maximize the boost that Christmas usually brings. This year, sales growth is making a very slow start. One way to make Christmas  easier to pay for is to spread the cost of Christmas over a longer period but we don’t see that so far. The traditional grocery sector is struggling against the growth of the discounters such as Aldi and Lidl and that is probably what’s behind these findings.”