For the supermarkets, this is set to be a fascinating Christmas, likely to reflect the broader market trends that we’ve been seeing all year and perhaps mark a turning point in the traditional yuletide food retail narrative.
The logic has generally been that punters will look to trade up at Christmas, with Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer and Waitrose being the main beneficiaries. Such has been the level of improvement in premium lines offered by all of the other main players in the sector, though, trading up no longer means changing stores.
“Last year saw shoppers shake off any economic concerns to splurge on premium lines”
The discounters Aldi and Lidl have typically lost a little market share over Christmas in the past as shoppers deserted them for the broader ranges to be found at the mainstream supermarkets, but the ongoing strengthening of the breadth and depth of range offered by both chains no longer necessitates such a move.
Last year saw shoppers shake off any economic concerns to splurge on premium lines, and this year both Aldi’s Specially Selected and Lidl’s Deluxe are shaping up well as punters start thinking about stocking up ahead of the celebrations.
Iceland looking strong
It will be interesting to see if Iceland’s serendipitous victory in the battle of the Christmas adverts is matched by similar progress in market share terms. Again, its private label has improved beyond recognition and it is worth remembering that the hugely impressive Food Warehouse division has virtually doubled in size over the past year.
Recent data from Kantar Worldpanel suggests that Iceland is winning over more affluent shoppers, so it could be a very strong Christmas indeed for them.
Recent store visits suggest that Asda, Tesco and Morrisons are looking in fine fettle as they gear up for the onslaught, with Asda looking particularly strong across both seasonal food and general merchandise.
“British shoppers have consistently demonstrated a willingness and ability to put on a brave face and indulge over the festive period”
The Co-op continues to build up a head of steam on the back of a great 2018 so far and looks very well placed to cater for smaller convenience trips over the Christmas period.
Perhaps the main worries this year would be over the fortunes of M&S, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose. Kantar data for November showed that the latter two have not got off to a particularly auspicious start, while the well-documented issues with the M&S performance in food might take a while to turn around.
If anything, consumer nervousness will be more severe this year as we face uplifting and jaunty news over Brexit-related political meltdown, food shortages and economic harm.
That said, British shoppers have consistently demonstrated a willingness and ability to put on a brave face and indulge themselves and their families over the festive period.
This will undoubtedly be the case this Christmas, but as the market share data and trading statements trickle in during January, expect to see that some grocers start off the year with a hangover.