Shopper spend stalled in November despite supermarkets’ continuing lure of price cuts, money-off vouchers, fuel discounts and still further use of promotions, according to the latest retailer performance figures released by Nielsen.
The figures show that the proportion of goods on promotional offer in UK supermarkets is back up to 37 percent (from 35 percent) by value, but there has been no associated uplift in sales. Headline value growth at the UK’s grocery multiples slowed further to +2.2% (from +2.7%) in the four weeks to November 26, due to slowing shop price inflation and consumer caution, with unit growth slowing to minus 2% (from minus 1.9%), .
Nielsen senior manager for retailer services Mike Watkins explains: “The last week of November is typically a strong week for supermarkets, but this year the growth trend is different. Shoppers are generally not only delaying spend until December, they are also buying less.
“However, discount retailers are set for their best ever Christmas, with stronger signs of underlying growth than those experienced at the start of the 2008/9 recession. At Aldi, Lidl and Iceland, shoppers are visiting more often and spending more heavily. Aldi in particular has attracted 20 percent more shoppers compared to this time last year.”
Of the major supermarkets, Asda has the best momentum at the moment and is looking good for continued strong sales growths in December following its integration of Netto.
Morrisons is also well positioned for another good Christmas, having recently outspent its rivals on TV and press advertising. Nielsen commercial director Nigel Birch explains: “Taking a snapshot of the week ending November 19, Morrisons was the lead TV and press advertiser in the week with an ad spend of £2.44million, followed by Sainsbury (£2.09m) and Asda (£1.99m). Aldi’s sudden increase in spend to £1.35m took it above Tesco at £1.31m.”
Predicting what’s to come for the supermarkets, Watkins says: “The key Christmas four-week trading period to December 24 is projected to be worth around £11.8bn, up slightly on last year when sales were £11.3bn.
“However, even if there is a strong December, we expect the grocery multiples may only achieve 3.2% growth for the full 12-week trading period. This is a third less growth than last year and is reliant on both the last two weeks being exceptional. It would certainly help if the recent colder weather continues, but snow – which dented enthusiasm this time last year – manages to hold off.”