Shoppers determined to make this the best Christmas ever as supermarket sales soar

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Supermarket shoppers spent record amounts of money in November amid a desire to forget the pandemic and celebrate the run up to Christmas.

The latest figures from Kantar show that November was the biggest month ever for the grocery market, with £10.9bn spent in store and online. The average British household has spent a record £4,206 on groceries this year.

Kantar reported that 42 per cent of people said they are determined to make this “the best Christmas ever” after a tough 2020.

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It said that sales of festive lights are up 238 per cent, cream liqueurs sales have doubled and turkey sales are up 36 per cent on last year.

November was the biggest month ever for the grocery market, with £10.9bn spent in store and onlineNovember was the biggest month ever for the grocery market, with £10.9bn spent in store and online
November was the biggest month ever for the grocery market, with £10.9bn spent in store and online

Households up and down the country have got into the Christmas spirit much earlier than usual this year in a bid to spread some cheer after two lockdowns.

Kantar said that more than six million households shopped at a grocer online this month - the highest ever level - with digital platforms accounting for 14 per cent of all sales, which was also a record.

It said that take-home grocery sales rose 11 per cent during the 12 weeks to November 29, which was the fastest rate of growth since August. Take-home sales during the past four weeks rose 14 per cent, as eating and drinking out of home was restricted by the English national lockdown.

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Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar, said: “Shoppers are spending the cash they would have spent on dining out.

“If you can’t eat out, you still need to eat at home so therefore you do spend that money. Of course, you can spend an awful lot of money dining out and you eat in from the supermarket quite cheaply so it might not be quite as much money, which does leave the chance for you to buy premium own-label lines, which are doing particularly well.

People are either stocking up in preparation for Christmas or just want to treat themselves that bit early.”

Kantar said that November shopper frequency hit its highest level since the beginning of the pandemic, suggesting more confidence among shoppers about going into stores.

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“Those factors contributed to November being the single largest month ever for the supermarkets, with £10.9bn spent over four weeks. December’s numbers are likely to surpass that again, and we expect spending to be close to £12bn in the month ahead, around £1.5bn more than last year,” said Mr McKevitt.

He said that December is always the biggest month of the year for grocers.

“People might be celebrating differently this year, in smaller family groups, etc, but I think people want to have a celebration this year. If they can, they’ll be splashing out a little bit,” he said.

“Of course not everybody is in financial distress at the moment. The people lucky enough to be in work, who might not have had a foreign holiday or bought a new car, might have money to spend this Christmas. I think the nation wants to celebrate.”

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He said that after a tough 12 months for many people, Christmas has given shoppers a much needed cause for celebration.

“Many people have begun the countdown to Christmas 2020 already, using more time at home to go big on festive revelry,” said Mr McKevitt.

“Sales of turkeys, both whole birds and ready-to-roast joints, are up by 36 per cent on last year, while more than £11m was spent on Christmas puddings.

“Shoppers spent 238 per cent more on Christmas lights in the month to November 15, suggesting that people are eager to capture the Christmas spirit at home. However, mince pie sales are down by 8 per cent, reflecting fewer opportunities to share a treat with friends and colleagues.”

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Limited opportunities to drink in pubs and restaurants, as well as an early eye on festivities, pushed alcohol spending 33 per cent higher than in the same four weeks last year. Two-fifths of that growth came from spirits, with sales of cream liqueurs, which are popular Christmas tipples, more than doubling compared with 2019.

Kantar said the other word on everybody’s lips at the moment is Brexit.

The firm said that shoppers, retailers, and suppliers will all be hoping that grocery price inflation, which is currently running at 1.4 per cent, remains relatively benign.

Mr McKevitt said: “The supermarkets and their suppliers are extremely concerned about the Brexit deal. In many ways, the supermarkets business is a logistics business and any friction at the border or any additional costs at the border will inevitably cause disruption.

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“I’m sure they will manage to get over that in the same way they managed to get over the initial flurry of buying at the start of this pandemic.

“For shoppers, the biggest risk is that there could be price rises. If there are tariffs, that could start putting prices up.

“When prices go up, people start making different choices. They start to buy cheaper products, buy more on promotion and start thinking about shopping at the cheapest supermarket.”

Morrisons was once again the best performer among the big four, with sales rising 13.7 per cent.Sainsbury’s sales rose 10.8 per cent, Tesco’s sales rose 10.4 per cent and Asda’s sales were up 7.7 per cent.

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