Christmas 2021: Grocery sales finish ahead of previous year

Retailers managed to hold on to the extraordinary growth seen in 2020



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11 January 2022

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Christmas 2021 saw Irish people spend €732 on groceries every second in the four weeks to 26 December. Total sales surpassed €1.7 billion, an impressive figure representing a growth of +0.3% versus Christmas 2020. In comparison to a pandemic free Christmas in 2019, total value sales were up +12% this year.

This is according to new research from NielsenIQ, which said the year’s slight growth was down to better than anticipated sales for Christmas week (seven days to 26 December 2021). During the previous seven weeks (ending 19 December 2021) sales were averaging around -3% versus 2020, however Christmas week finished +5.7% essentially saving Christmas from a decline this year.

Overall, Irish shoppers spent €28 million more during Christmas week this year versus in 2020. This growth was down to a longer lead up to Christmas Day as it fell on a Saturday this year coupled with curtailed out of home celebrations as Omicron infections began to rapidly spread across the nation.

The standout category performer in terms of value growth this Christmas was Confectionery (including soft drinks, crisps and snacks, chocolate, and sweets) representing 47% of incremental sales. Overall, Irish shoppers spent €12 million more on this category versus year ago with soft drinks being the lead performer with sales +11% compared to Christmas 20202. Health and beauty also performed well fuelled by an increase in medicinal sales as Omicron infections began to spread diagnostic tests added €1.5 million to category sales this Christmas.

Despite Omicron fears, many returned to the pubs to toast an alcoholic beverage and as a result, take-home alcohol sales saw a value decline of -5% compared to Christmas 2020. Unsurprisingly, this decline was mainly driven by lager sales where we spent €6 million less this Christmas versus year ago. Champagne and sparkling wine sales were down by -3.8% this Christmas compared to last. No and low, alcoholic drinks was the only segment to grow within alcohol, +26% compared to Christmas 2020. This coupled with the strong growth in soft drinks indicates that many Irish consumers chose to have a less boozy Christmas this year.

In terms of channel performance, the multiple retailers, which includes Tesco, Supervalu, Eurospar, and M&S, was the only channel to grow in the four weeks to Christmas this year with value sales +1.8% versus year ago. Overall, the convenience channel saw a decline of -1.1% this year, however sales did pick up in the final two weeks to Christmas.

Karen Mooney, commercial leader at NielsenIQ Ireland, said: “Despite all indications leading up to Christmas this year, the Irish FMCG market managed to hold on to the extraordinary growth seen in 2020. As Omicron began to spread widely in the week running up to Christmas 2021, Irish shoppers redirected spend into the home which meant we avoided a sales decline this year. We also saw a return to pre pandemic Christmas trends as consumers chose to spend less on alcoholic drinks and more on soft drinks and no/low alcoholic beverages.”



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