UK grocers record impressive December food sales as inflation falls

U.K. supermarkets recently experienced their highest level of December transactions since 2019, according to marketing data and analytics firm Kantar, as consumers spent a record GBP 13.7 billion (USD 17 billion, EUR 16 billion) at grocery tills during the last month of 2023, up 7 percent year over year.

The average U.K. household spent an all-time high of GBP 477 (USD 603, EUR 553) on groceries in December, Kantar said in a press release. Additionally, consumers made 488 million trips to the supermarkets over the four weeks leading up to 24 December, 12 million more trips than last year and the largest number in the pre-Christmas period since before the Covid-19 pandemic.

“As we expected, this Christmas was a whopper,” Kantar Head of Retail and Consumer Insight Fraser McKevitt said. 

U.K. consumers made just over 25 million trips to the supermarket alone on 22 December, making it the most popular shopping day of the month. U.K. shoppers spent GBP 803 million (USD 1 billion, EUR 932 million) in grocery stores in December – 85 percent more than the average Friday in 2023.

Discounters ALDI and Lidl performed exceptionally over the holiday season, but Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, and Waitrose also enjoyed a successful holiday period, McKevitt said.

“The traditional retailers always tend to do well in the run up to Christmas, and this year was no exception,” McKevitt said. “Supermarkets saw especially strong performances for their own-label lines, with sales of premium ranges like Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference and Tesco’s Finest surging … compared with last year.”

U.K. grocery price inflation fell again in December to 6.7 percent, reaching its lowest level since April 2022, according to Kantar and the U.K. Office of National Statistics.

“This is below the three-month average rate of 7.7 percent and is the eighth consecutive deceleration in the food category,” the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said, citing NielsenIQ data.

However, both BRC and Kantar executives warned about the economic pressures U.K. consumers will continue to face in 2024.

“The rate of inflation is coming down at the fastest pace we have ever recorded, but consumers are still facing pretty hefty pressures on their budgets,” McKevitt said.

Those pressures were reflected by the fact that nearly one-third of all consumer purchases in the four weeks ending on Christmas Eve comprised items with some kind of ... 

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock/Yau Ming Low

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