Despite consumers saying they prioritise food at Christmas, we saw the toughest Christmas for the grocery sector in five years, with a decline in volumes, as consumers economised, reduced waste and shopped smarter across a repertoire of grocery retailers. Discounters grew, but more due to store openings than true like-for-like growth. We also saw a decline in online grocery shopping (-6.6% year-on-year, according to the ONS), but it’s unclear whether this was due to supply constraints or a change in consumer preferences. Brand loyalty is dwindling as the battle for ‘share of stomach’ encompasses traditional supermarkets, discounters, general merchandise value retailers (such as B&M, Home Bargains and Poundland), restaurant home delivery and eating out. With a slow start to the autumn season, apparel remained tough with limited growth but new entrants. The big winners continue to be the millennial online brands. The one area of growth was menswear, with men becoming more confident on their prospects than women.

But, as ever, in a tough, flat market, there were successes for those retailers that responded to relevant consumer trends, and invested in their proposition, whether through product ranges, stores or prices and customer engagement.

December 2019