Supermarket sales decline for first time in five months

UK supermarkets sales fell for the first time in five months due to a combination of Black Friday impacting non-food purchases, and falling prices as the Christmas offers kicked in, according to new figures released today by Nielson retail.

The company’s data for the four-week period to December 3, shows money taken at the till down by 0.4% and the volume of goods sold down by 0.3%, both returns being judged against the same period a year ago.

“The value of general merchandise sales dropped by 4.3% during the period,” said Nielsen’s UK head of retailer and business insight, Mike Watkins. “This was partly a result of shoppers being distracted by heavily-advertised Black Friday deals by non-food retailers, particularly online.”

Even the discounters’ weren’t immune this time round with Aldi’s annual growth dropping into single figures (8.5%) for the first time in four years, whilst Lidl’s 2.7% was six times smaller than its growth rate this time last year.

“After a strong start to November, shoppers’ seemed to have held back on food spend in the last few weeks, despite some very attractive Christmas offers and price reductions,” added Mr Watkins (pictured above). “However, we expect momentum to pick up again and the week ending Christmas Eve will be a massive opportunity for the big four supermarkets to regain market share.”

Nielsen estimates, in fact, that shoppers will spend around £4 billion at supermarkets in the pre-Christmas week alone, with Thursday 22nd expected to be the biggest day of the year.

“It’s not been a great year for the leading supermarkets but an extra day’s shopping available, with Christmas Day falling on a Sunday, means this year should end on a bit of a high note with more visits that week, and sales up versus last year despite the ongoing price deflation,” he said.

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