December 2016 will be remembered as one of the hottest festive periods on recent record in Australia. However, grocery sales during this peak period remained cool, with just 1% growth in dollars spent during the four-week period ending 31 December 2016 compared with the same period in 2015 - well below the annual growth rate for total grocery.
Six percent of Australian households sourced their Christmas groceries online, spending a total of $208 over the December month. Overall, online grocery sales in the month of December grew by 19% compared with December 2015 and ahead of the 2016 year average of 16% growth.
Nielsen retail performance data shows that despite sluggish overall takings at the tills, grocery categories such as fresh berries, mangoes, avocados, mineral water, and fresh prawns surged; reporting the biggest jump in both volume and value sales compared to the same period in 2015. Pork and lamb also recorded notable increases versus 12 months prior.
Categories that didn’t fare as well included melons, stone fruits, sliced meats, and frozen poultry - all of which declined in sales volume compared to 2015. Pantry staples including pasta and rice, long-life juice and biscuits were also less likely to be found in shopper baskets compared to the previous year.
Interestingly, there were no major shifts in price inflation or deflation driving this trend. And, the way consumers shopped for groceries over the festive season remained similar to the total year trends - 40% purchased products while on promotion - unchanged versus 2015. Consumers also slightly decreased the number of items in their basket during December versus the previous year, with the average number of items per basket reducing from 21 to 20.
Senior Couples and Small Scale Families were the two demographic groups that increased their spend above market rates this Christmas. While specialty shops saw a marked uptake in sales - particularly butchers, growing faster than the overall market by 2%.