UK supermarket sales exceeded all expectations in the fortnight leading up to Christmas as excited shoppers spent £7.1 billion on food for festivities, figures show.
The till total exceeds previous forecasts from NielsenIQ analysts, who predicted sales would reach £6.8 billion, up from £6.7 billion in 2020.
Moreover, Britons spent £14 billion on Christmas food and drink over the 12 weeks prior to December 25 – up 9.4% on 2020 and 14.5% on 2019 – as consumers prepared for a day with family and friends after the previous year’s Covid-restricted celebrations.
The impressive growth held up against strong results from 2020, when sales increased by 8% in anticipation of a full lockdown from January 4 2021.
A surge in snacking and party food was accompanied by sales of soft drinks up 9.4% on 2020, fresh trifle up 8% and fresh sausage rolls up 7%.
Sales for chocolate confectionery were up 8%, with UK shoppers spending an estimated £380 million on the treats.
However, shoppers sought alternatives to traditional festive food as well, sending sales of fresh oriental ready meals up 20% and vegetarian burgers up 19%.
M&S was the fastest growing food retailer over the 12-week period with sales up 9.4%, while Lidl (8.5%) and Aldi (4.8%) both benefited from an accelerated new store opening programme.
NielsenIQ’s UK head of retailer and business insight, Mike Watkins, said: “Omnichannel purchasing, shopping around, and entertaining at home were the big shopping trends over the festive period.
“All retailers had more shoppers than this time last year and most had more visits, even if spend per visit was a little lower at just over £21.
“Shoppers were willing to buy the extra Christmas indulgences and temporarily put aside their concerns about the rising cost of living.
“Looking ahead, consumers are facing significantly higher energy, travel and other household costs so it’s likely that shoppers will look to make savings on their weekly food shop by managing budgets.
“We may see them buying what they need when they need it, wasting less fresh food, and steering clear of unnecessary cupboard stocking.
“This would give added momentum to the return of the little and more often macro trend we are anticipating as we hopefully leave behind the pandemic shopping behaviour in the new year.”