Sales in the British grocery sector picked up over the holidays, but were largely negated by weak sales at the beginning of December, Nielsen reported last week.
Growth (by value) of British food sales for the four-week period ending December 27 was up by 2.6% year-over-year overall and by 4.5% year-over-year for grocery multiples.
"The consumer was much more cautious this year, and it was a back to basics Christmas," Mike Watkins, senior manager, retailer services, Nielsen, noted. "Sales of packaged grocery (+11%), frozen (+10%), and confectionery (+8%) were buoyant, while sales of liquor (+4%), heath and beauty (+1%), and deli counter (+1%) were more muted."
Overall, "Out of Town" super stores (25,000 square feet+) were the star holiday performers, with sales up by 8% in the two weeks ending December 27, according to Nielsen. The data suggests that shoppers held back on Christmas shopping, waiting until last minute and then maximizing their spending at larger stores.
Among "Out of Town" retailers, Asda had particularly strong sales growth (+6.7%). The chain increased its market share from 15.7% during December 2007 to 16.1% this December, according to Nielsen.
Morrisons also showed impressive growth (+9.1%) during the 12 weeks ending December 27. The retailer increasing its market share from 10.1% during Q4 2007 to 10.6% for the fourth quarter of 2008.
"Retailers with keen pricing and a value for money offering have really performed well over Christmas," Watkins noted. "It is evident that consumers really did cut back on the luxuries and make do this year."
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