Supermarkets suffer as Brits break with traditions

The Christmas supermarket results are in and the verdict is “subdued” - but is it any wonder after the year they have had?

Friday, 10th January 2020, 12:59 pm

This year’s festive season fell during an unprecedented election period that would decide the outcome of a titanic three-year clash over Brexit.

It's perhaps no surprise that sales of Christmas puddings – essential but under-appreciated due to always being stuffed by that point – were down 16 per cent.

But if you’re not feeling particularly festive and you’re in the mood to break with an institution – whether it’s the EU or figgy pudding – then the supermarkets are going to suffer.

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The Star Business Editor David Walsh.

And all that came after a year of looming economic cliff edges and portents of doom that must have kept supermarket bosses awake at night, as they shelled out for warehouse space to stockpile groceries and checked and re-checked supply lines.

For, despite our mixed feelings about them, imagine the headlines if a retailer failed to offer puds?

This year though, the sense of relief at having made it through Christmas comes with extra helpings because it’s all finally behind us.

Now, at least, we know our fate – and the supermarkets can see theirs.

Tesco sales were up just 0.1 per cent in the six-week festive period. Food was up at M&S but clothes were down (as usual) resulting in 0.2 per cent Christmas growth compared to last year.

At Sainsbury’s, food and clothing were up but toys were down (Argos is part of the group) leading to a 0.7 per cent fall, while Morrisons is seen as the big festive loser with sales down 1.7 per cent.

Discounters Aldi and Lidl continued to eat into the big boys. Aldi was up 7.9 per cent in December while Lidl was up 10.8 per cent in the 12 weeks to December 29. Together they are now 13.7 per cent of the market. Posh online brand Ocado was up 12.5 per cent.

It’s hard to see that pattern changing in Brexit Britain, with growth at the top and bottom and a squeezed middle unable or unwilling to consume any more.

The big supermarkets won’t thank us for it, but maybe some belt tightening wouldn’t go amiss, for the sake of our health, our wallets and the planet.