Households in the UK spent £1.1bn more on groceries in December than a year earlier, taking Christmas spending to a record £12.8bn, but got fewer items in their baskets as rampant inflation hit home.
In a clear indication of how soaring prices are hammering household budgets, the latest monthly report from retail analysts Kantar showed that despite the overall amount shoppers spent rising more than 9%, the volume of sales was down 1% on the same month in 2021.
Many stocked up on alcohol to enjoy while watching the men’s football World Cup, with sales of beer reaching the highest level for the year on the day of England’s quarter-final against France on 10 December.
However, the most popular shopping day of the year was Friday 23 December – when more than half of households went to stores or received a delivery.
Last month was the busiest in supermarkets since the coronavirus pandemic, with online sales accounting for a lower proportion of the total festive blowout than last year.
Inflation prompted shoppers to cut back on some traditional favourites. The number of mince pies sold barely increased, for example, but the sum spent on them rose by 19%. Only 45% of households bought brussels sprouts, down from 48% a year before. However, the number of Christmas puddings sold rose 6% despite heavy inflation, which meant shoppers spent 16% more in total on the festive dessert.
With heavy competition among supermarkets, grocery price inflation slipped to 14.4% in December, from 14.6% in November. The value of sales of groceries to take home – so not including takeaway sandwiches and drinks – rose 7.6% in the three months to 25 December, with only sales at Morrisons and Waitrose falling.
Fraser McKevitt, the head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar, said: “This is the second month in a row that grocery price inflation has fallen, raising hopes that the worst has now passed. However, it’s still a painfully high figure at the current rate, impacting how and what we buy at the shops.”
Shoppers continue to seek to combat inflation by turning to supermarket own-label products, where sales rose 13.7%. Sales of premium own-label items were particularly strong, with Aldi and Lidl taking the lead, underpinning total sales growth of 27% and 24% respectively in the three months to Christmas Day – well ahead of Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda, which reported growth of 6%, 6.2% and 6.4%.