Asda's head of George Anthony Thompson said last week that Christmas will be “late, tough, and a bit of a rollercoaster” and his views are echoed around the market.
Yet whereas the most attention has been paid to how tough fashion and homewares will be this year, the grocers should also fear that life isn’t that rosy.
The majority of shoppers will still want a traditional Christmas dinner and won’t want to miss out on any of the usual treats such as mince pies or Christmas pudding. Yet while the likes of Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda will no doubt launch massive price wars on their Christmas ranges, they should also worry about Aldi and Lidl’s penetration.
So far, most shoppers that have been defecting to Aldi and Lidl have been doing top-up shops, buying the odd product here and there and testing the quality.
And the quality has been proved. Many of the discount grocers’ lines have won awards and, anecdotally, we at Retail Week have heard that many shoppers – who previously have only bought from the likes of Sainsbury’s – have been so impressed with products such as wines that they’ve become proud of showing them off at dinner parties.
Which brings us back to Christmas. If Aldi and Lidl are impressing in general product areas, will shoppers be tempted to do their entire Christmas grocery shop with them? If quality isn’t an issue, then shoppers will be tempted.
But do Aldi and Lidl have the range? Judging by the marketing activity of both German grocers this past week, they don’t seem to have left many products out.
Lidl has grabbed the headlines with its£4.99 lobster and this week its Christmas Market brochure dropped out of the Daily Mail offering treats such as Gluhwein (mulled wine) for£3.69, Luxury All Over Iced Christmas Cake for£6.99, 12 Deep Filled Mince Pies for£1.49 or Chocolate Filled Advent Calendars for 79p each.
And Aldi is not to be outdone either. It is launching its largest Christmas range to date this year for an entire Christmas dinner. Along with its frozen turkeys, it will offer a stuffed pheasant for£7.99 and a whole goose for£19.99. And – if you thought extravagant recipes were only for the likes of Heston Blumenthal – think again; the discount grocer will also offer a frozen three bird roast for£9.99.
The prices of these Christmas meals are incredible and if shoppers are willing to give them a go, their Christmas grocery run may not cost a fortune. And it will be left to the mainstream grocers to see if they can match up.