Britain’s grocery sales lack festive spirit

Britain’s grocery sales lack festive spirit
98 percent of Britons visited a big four supermarket — Dave Lewis’ (below) Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Asda — in the past three months. Reuters Tesco Group Chief Executive, Dave Lewis speaks at an analyst presentation in London, Britain, April 12, 2017. (Reuters)
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Updated 10 December 2019

Britain’s grocery sales lack festive spirit

Britain’s grocery sales lack festive spirit
  • Sales of popular Christmas food purchases are down compared with last year

LONDON: Sales growth at Britain’s supermarkets slowed in the last quarter, industry data showed on Tuesday, as shoppers delayed their festive season preparations ahead of a national election on Dec. 12. 

Market researcher Kantar said all of Britain’s big four supermarket groups — market leader Tesco, Sainsbury’s , Asda and Morrisons — recorded sales declines over the period and lost market share to the German-owned discounters Aldi and Lidl which are aggressively opening new stores. Kantar said total British grocery sales rose 0.5 percent year-on-year in the 12 weeks to Dec. 1, having increased 1 percent in its November data set. 

“We’re yet to see consumers ramp up their spending in the run up to Christmas and, as anticipated, Black Friday only brought a limited boost for the grocers,” said Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar. 

“With the general election now only days away, people are waiting to fill their cupboards for the festive break,” he said, noting, for example, that sales of Christmas puddings and seasonal biscuits are down 16 percent and 12 percent in the past four weeks, compared with this time last year. Kantar said sales at Tesco fell 0.8 percent over the period, while Sainsbury’s, Asda, and Morrisons saw sales declines of 1.1 percent, 1.9 percent and 2.9 percent respectively. 

In contrast Aldi’s sales were up 6.2 percent and Lidl’s rose 9.3 percent, giving a combined market share of 14.1 percent. 

“While the big four all lost share in the past 12 weeks, 98 percent of the British public still visited at least one of their stores during the past three months,” said McKevitt. “Based on previous years, we expect them to increase their proportion of sales in the coming weeks as shoppers turn to familiar favourites and the traditional retailers in December.” 

Kantar said it was too early to say if Tesco’s new “Clubcard Plus” loyalty subscription scheme, launched last month, has had an impact on sales. Shares in Britain’s big supermarket chain were all down in early trade in London.