Engage: retailers jockey for pole position to offer the most stress-free, luxury Christmas

Lidl lobster: luxury on a budget

Lidl lobster: luxury on a budget

Brands and retailers are readying themselves to do battle for the crown as the supplier most likely to deliver a stress-free, luxury Christmas to Britain’s austerity-weary families.

Customer insight agency Engage Research says brands and retailers are positioning themselves to be the family’s champion by offering ‘premium’ products at a comparatively budget price as a way of taking the stress out of the holidays and helping families feel like they can break free from the need to economise.

Premium on a budget looks as if it will become this year’s Christmas battleground with each of the major retailers seeking to “out-premium” the other. Engage cites the move by discount retailer Lidl to launch its first ever nationwide television advertising campaign with a festive push for its premium Deluxe range as an indicator that Britain is looking forward to its first luxury Christmas since before the recession started.

“The discount retailers are working particularly hard to offer customers a wide range of price conscious but relatively premium products,” said Engage Research director Lyndsay Peck.

“These ‘premium branded’ Christmas essentials, like Belgian chocolates, make consumers feel smart, savvy and indulgent without feeling guilty. Ordinarily researchers will tell you that price sets up a perception or an expectation of quality in the mind of the consumer. If the juxtaposition of price and quality from the discounters works then this could lead to a mindset change by consumers on price and premium that lasts beyond the exigencies of the Christmas period.”

Lidl, whose campaign for its deluxe Christmas range includes a whole cooked lobster, said it expects sales of the Deluxe range to increase by 50% this year to £63.8m.

Asda has teamed up with top cookery school Leiths to develop its premium Extra Special range for Christmas, whilst Waitrose is developing further its relationship with leading chef Heston Blumenthal. Co-op’s promotional activity will claim its festive food range can help ease the stress of Christmas, whilst Morrisons’ Signature Stilton and AldiI’s Christmas pudding outperformed all others – including Harrods and Fortnum & Mason, in a Good Housekeeping taste test.

“Clearly we are getting a sense of the start of an economic upturn and people are looking forward to Christmas creating a feel-good factor that has been missing the last couple of years. But this seems to be a new development. Gone is the indulgent Christmas excess of a few years ago; in a sense the austerity, budget Christmas of the last couple of years has gone too and we are seeing the invention of the luxury budget Christmas,” said Peck.