Shoppers hold back spend in grocery sector in anticipation for holiday season
Couple in grocery store

Shoppers hold back spend in grocery sector in anticipation for holiday season

Following a record summer of spending, shoppers are tightening their purse strings in anticipation for the upcoming holiday season, signalled by a slowdown in grocery sales.

Value sales growth has slowed to +1.9% during the last four-week period ending 6 October. This is compared to +2.4% sales growth in September. Volume sales at the major supermarkets have also fallen to -0.6%, down from 0% recorded last month*.

The beginning of autumn has signalled an objectively disappointing, though not entirely unexpected, slowdown in sales. But keeping in mind retailers had such a strong summer period, it’s likely shoppers are pressing the reset button after a season of excess. The warmer weather also potentially has shoppers delaying the need to stock up and hunker down for the colder months. So while value sales of soft drinks have grown by over 9%, volume sales of packaged grocery and household items have fallen by 2%*. This paired with recent increases in fuel prices and energy bills, which are having an impact on household budgets has meant shoppers are becoming more cautious about their spending.

It’s likely we won’t see this lull lift until the Christmas promotional period commences in two weeks time, which should give the industry much-needed momentum. With the recent weakened trading, there is a pressing need for retailers to encourage shoppers to get back into the shopping mode after schools break for half-term. Retailers will look to introduce lower prices in private label across core grocery staples to help drive volume sales – and brands will need to ramp up their promotional activity to counteract it.

In the last four weeks, volume sales for own-label products were up +1.7% whereas branded products were down slightly at -0.3%, further suggesting that shoppers are looking to save money by switching to cheaper alternatives*. Retailer promotional activity also remained stable at 26.5% of sales.

Looking at sales change, comparing the last 12-week period and the same in 2017, Morrison’s (+2.2%) remained ahead of Sainsbury’s (+0.6%). Tesco’s growth (+1.2%) also fell further behind Asda (+2.9%), with all four retailers promoting their respective price cuts over the last four weeks.

Table: 12-weekly % share of grocery market spend by retailer and value sales % change

All figures are from Nielsen Homescan Total Till unless otherwise stated.
*Source: Nielsen Scantrack Grocery Multiples 12 weeks to 6/10/18