Grocery sales helped UK supermarkets report one of their busiest Christmas period, which saw shoppers splash out record amounts of cash.
As previously reported, Lidl UK was the fastest growing supermarket over the Christmas period, according to Kantar Worldpanel, achieving record sales for December.
Lidl UK’s Birchwood Farm whole fresh turkey, available for £3.89 per kilogram, was said to be the most competitively priced among all UK supermarkets, contributing to a 10% increase in turkey sales. Overall, fresh meat and poultry sales grew by 17% for the period.
In addition, roughly 600 tonnes of Brussels sprouts and 17 million mince pies were sold, while its Deluxe 24-month matured Christmas pudding was one of the best-selling products in the range, contributing to a 60% increase in its luxury Christmas pudding sales.
Christian Härtnagel, Lidl UK CEO, said: “Lidl UK has had a fantastic 2017 and this was capped by our strongest Christmas trading period to date.
“Customers came into our stores to buy more of their Christmas items, knowing they could find high quality products at market-leading prices.”
Grocery sales at Sainsbury’s grew 2.3% for the 15 weeks to 6th January, with 22nd December having been the retailer’s “biggest sales day for stores”.
Mike Coupe, group chief executive officer, explained that customers bought more Taste the Difference food than last year, as Sainsbury’s launched 185 new food lines for Christmas – almost half of which were in the premium range.
In its trading statement, Sainsbury’s noted that it delivered “some of the lowest turkey prices in the market”, adding that it grew market share in both turkey and produce during the key week “when more customers bought their main Christmas meal at Sainsbury’s”.
Record sales for December were also reported by Aldi, which saw year-on-year UK sales increase by more than 15% during the final month of 2017.
Christmas sales were boosted by a surge in demand for Aldi’s premium Specially Selected products, with sales increasing by over 30% year-on-year during December.
Among the top-selling Specially Selected products were mince pies, sweetcured gammon joints topped with a gingerbread crumb and Aberdeen Angus beef roasting joints.
Matthew Barnes, chief executive officer, Aldi UK and Ireland, said: “This was our busiest-ever Christmas as millions of festive shoppers switched to Aldi from more expensive food retailers.
“Although we saw strong growth across all categories, the performance of our premium Specially Selected range in particular surpassed all expectations.
Tesco saw “strong” third quarter performance, for the 19 weeks ended 6th January, with like-for-like sales up 2.3%.
According to its trading statement, the moment continued into “record Christmas”, with UK like-for-like sales growth of 1.9% having been drive by 3.4% like-for-like in food, including 3.5% like-for-like in fresh food.
The Christmas period was the “biggest ever sales week in the UK, driven by fresh food market outperformance of nearly 4%”, with all fresh categories “significantly” outperforming the market, “with a particularly strong volume performance in meat, fish and poultry”, the retailer said.
Dave Lewis, chief executive, commented: “We have continued to outperform the market throughout this period, particularly in fresh food, thanks to our most competitive offer for many years.
“Our trading momentum accelerated across the third quarter and into December, with the four weeks leading up to Christmas Day delivering record sales and volumes in the UK.”
Morrisons also reported “especially strong” sales over the Christmas and New Year period, with Group LFL of 3.7% for the six weeks to 7th January.
The retailer also mentioned that “despite input cost pressures on many commodities”, the price of a basket of key Christmas items was the same as last year. Sales of its Best premium range were up 25%, along with Food to Order sales that jumped over 50%.
David Potts, chief executive, commented: “More and more customers found more things they wanted to buy at competitive prices at Morrisons this Christmas.
“Our plans to become a broader and stronger business are progressing well, with another period of positive like-for-like sales and the start of the rolling programme to supply McColl’s.”
Waitrose achieved like-for-like sales growth, up 1.5%, in a market where industry margins were described as “under pressure”.
The retailer’s online business performed “very strongly”, achieving the “biggest week of sales in its history”.
During the Christmas period, Waitrose doubled the number of tastings in its branches for some of its new products, such as the chocolate and ginger mince pies. In addition, it launched 500 new festive products, while sales of premium range Waitrose 1 products were up by 4.2% in volume.
Sir Charlie Mayfield, chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, noted: “We traded well during the Christmas period, with gross sales in the six weeks to 30th December £1,962 million, up 2.5% on last year, with 1.4% sales growth in Waitrose.
“The pressure on margin seen in the first half of the year has intensified because of our choice to maintain competitive prices, despite higher costs mainly due to the weaker exchange rate. This will negatively affect full-year financial results as indicated previously.”
Marks & Spencer
Admitting that M&S had a “mixed quarter”, Steve Rowe, chief executive, stated that “better Christmas trading” went “some way to offset […] ongoing underperformance in our food like-for-like sales”.
In the food business, ongoing trading pressures continued in the lead up to Christmas, resulting in a 0.4% like-for-like drop in revenue, in the third quarter of 2017, for the 13 weeks to 30th December.
According to the retailer, “price investment before Christmas and a strong performance from seasonal lines helped late trading”, while highlighting its previous announcement to make “further changes to get the business back on track in the year ahead”.