Indies ring in an early Christmas as grocery sales soar

10 December 2020, 08:46 AM
  • The latest figures from Kantar reveal that consumers spent a record amount on food and drink in November – and December spending is predicted to be even higher
Indies ring in an early Christmas as grocery sales soar

Food and drink retailers are likely to welcome a festive end to 2020, as the latest research from Kantar predicts that shoppers will spend nearly £12 billion on groceries in December, around £1.5 billion more than last year.

In the 12 weeks to 29th November, Kantar revealed that grocery sales rose by 11.3%, the fastest rate of growth since August. Over the past four weeks, while England was in lockdown with restaurants and pubs closed, take-home sales grew by nearly 14%.

“November as a whole saw shopper frequency hit its highest level since the beginning of the pandemic, suggesting more confidence among people going into stores,” said Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar Worldpanel. “Those factors contributed to November being the single largest month ever for the supermarkets, with £10.9 billion spent over four weeks.”

Independents are also welcoming the early Christmas shopping frenzy. Mark Kacary, managing director of The Norfolk Deli, said he has had to think seriously about suspending online orders soon because the shop is struggling to keep up with demand.

“Normally November is a dead month for us, and the first half of December is pretty quiet too. This year however, November was one of our busiest months ever, with 90% of orders being online,” Mark said. “We’re currently raiding all of our Norfolk suppliers and buying up whatever stock they have left. We have already achieved what we’d normally achieve in sales for December.”

Emma Mosey of Minskip Farm Shop has experienced a similar spike in sales. Even with the shop’s café closed during 2020’s lockdowns, figures are still “hugely up” compared to 2019. “It’s great to see that the figures for independents show a 17% increase compared to last year, which is a greater increase than the supermarkets and multiples. Here at Minskip Farm Shop, we have seen a 65% increase in turnover on this 12 week period last year,” Emma said.

December’s numbers are likely to surpass November’s record high. “After a tough 12 months for many people, Christmas has given shoppers a much-needed cause for celebration. 42% of Britons said they are pushing to make this the best Christmas in memory,” Fraser said.

For many, the celebrations have already begun. Sales of turkeys are up 36% on last year, while more than £11 million has already been spent on Christmas puddings. “However, mince pie sales are down by 8%, reflecting fewer opportunities to share a treat with friends and colleagues,” Fraser said.

Mark credits the booming business to The Norfolk Deli’s online shop. “If it wasn’t for the fact that we’ve worked to make sure we have a very extensive website then the story wouldn’t be as rosy.”

Online sales were certainly boosted due to the pandemic this year. In the first week of November, online sales rose 61%, marking the highest year-on-year rate since June and fourth-highest this year, according to IMRG, the online retail association. Kantar’s research found that six million households bought from a grocer online in November – the highest ever.

This, combined with a newfound desire among consumers to support local shops, has resulted in a positive end to a challenging year for many fine food retailers.

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