Best Christmas for four years enjoyed by UK supermarkets

UK supermarkets had their best Christmas for four years, according to new figures released today by Nielson retail.

The company said that Britons left their Christmas grocery shopping particularly late this year which meant supermarket sales in the week up to Christmas were “surprisingly strong”.

Nielsen retail’s new performance data shows takings at the tills for the four-week period ending December 31, 2016, rose by 3.3% versus the same period a year ago. This was the highest growth since 2012 (+3.7%) and a big improvement on last Christmas when year-on-year growth was flat (0%).

“Shoppers delayed grocery purchasing to such a degree that it caused a huge surge in sales in the week ending Christmas Eve, with sales rising by 22% compared to the same week last year, helping to make it one of the biggest ever ‘end of year’ for supermarkets,” said Nielsen’s UK head of retailer and business insight, Mike Watkins (pictured above). “As a result, spending in that final two weeks alone was £5.9 billion.

“Shoppers left it particularly late this year, not only because there was an extra day to do the big Christmas shop but the mild weather meant there was no need to visit the shops to stock up in advance, which benefited larger stores in particular.”

Mr Watkins attributed the strong performance to supermarkets simplifying their promotional strategies, adding that the percentage of purchases that went on sales/promotional products dropped from 31% last Christmas to 27% this year, the lowest for six years.

“Stronger communication on price cuts and less complicated promotions helped capture the seasonal and discretionary spend which had been ‘missing in action’ for much of 2016,” he said.

In terms of individual chain performance, Nielson’s figures showed Aldi with the biggest year-on-year growth among the grocery retailers with sales up 17% in the four-week period and almost one million new shoppers compared to last year.

Among the Big Four, meanwhile, Morrisons had the largest year-on-year growth (3.4%) in sales, narrowly ahead of Tesco (2.7%).

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