UK BWS sales up in Christmas run in

UK shoppers are spending more on beers, wines and spirits in the run up to Christmas, according to the latest retail data from market research group, IRI.

While overall supermarket sales are down, beers, wines and spirits (BWS) are up 3.3% over last year. Of this, more than £200 million was spent on spirits alone – up 3.8% - the equivalent of an extra £7m over the same period last year.

The figures come from IRI’s Retail Advantage, which measures major UK grocery multiples, show total FMCG sales (value) of £4.9 billion in the two weeks to December 12, down 1.6%. Food sales totalled £3.5bn, down 1.3%, while non-food sales were £1.4bn, down 2.1% over the two-week period.

According to IRI, shoppers spent nearly £74m on whisky and around £64.5m on white spirits (vodka and gin) up 5.6% in the two-week period, with rum showing a slight increase of 2.3% over last year.

Sales of sparkling wines are also up by 11.6% over the two weeks to December 21, including prosecco, which, according to IRI data earlier this year, has now replaced champagne as the nation’s favourite fizz, with sales growth of 72% over the last year, adding £142 million to the grocery sector.

While booze sales are up, more traditional Christmas fare is proving a turn-off so far, with sales of Christmas cakes and puddings down 5.3%, salty snacks down 3% and bacon, gammon and sausages down 13.2%.

“While consumers get into the spirit of Christmas, literally in many cases, it seems that some of the more traditional Christmas categories are in decline, including cakes and desserts, while Christmas baking items are also down,” according to Martin Wood, head of strategic insight, retail solutions and innovation, IRI.

“This could be down to people taking a more healthy approach to the big day, but it’s probably a little too early to say whether this trend will continue and we expect figures to bounce back during a busy Christmas shopping period this week.

“It’s interesting to see that sausages and bacon, Christmas staples, continue to decline sharply following the recent World Health Organisation report linking them to cancer. We revealed last month that the scare had wiped 10%, the equivalent of £10m per month, off sales of bacon and sausages and it’s very clear that this decline is set to continue, perhaps even over the Christmas period,” said Wood.

All figures quoted are from the two-week period ending 12 December 2015, says IRI.