M&S outpaces rivals at Christmas as shoppers return to high street – The Guardian
Retailer outpaces discounters Aldi and Lidl as more Britons go back to regular weekly shops
Last modified on Tue 11 Jan 2022 12.49 GMT
Marks & Spencer was the UK’s fastest-growing food retailer in the run-up to Christmas as shoppers returned to the high street after last year’s lockdown, according to an independent report.
The retailer, which lost out in 2020 because most of its stores are on high streets or in travel hubs which were affected by lockdowns, outpaced discounters Aldi and Lidl with sales growth of more than 9% in the 12 weeks to 26 December. The figures were provided by analysts at NielsenIQ and based on a survey of more than 14,500 households. M&S only began selling food online, via Ocado, in August 2020.
Lidl, which sells almost no food online, was the next fastest-growing retailer at 8.5% in the three months as it opened eight new stores in December. Aldi, which had claimed to be the UK’s best performer in the run-up to Christmas, was next on 4.8%, helped by new store openings.
Nielsen said shoppers had made 27m more visits to grocery retailers in the run-up to Christmas 2021 compared with a year before, while online orders accounted for 11.3% of total grocery sales, down from 12.1% a year earlier.
Mike Watkins, the NielsenIQ UK head of retailer and business insight, said: “All retailers had more shoppers than this time last year and most had more visits, even if spend per visit was a little lower at just over £21.”
He said British consumers were increasingly heading in-store for a regular weekly shop as well as for last-minute purchases and that such behaviour was likely to continue.
Nielsen said shoppers spent £7.1bn in the two weeks to 26 December, ahead of the £6.8bn expected and £6.7bn in 2020 when supermarkets rang up bumper sales with many high streets in lockdown and restaurants and cafes closed.
The figures indicate a stronger swing to dining and drinking at home amid fears of the Omicron variant of the Covid-19 virus.
Marks & Spencer is due to report its official Christmas sales figures on Thursday, but its shares have ticked up in recent days amid hopes of a strong performance. Tesco also reports on Thursday while Sainsbury’s reports on Wednesday.
Lidl said on Tuesday that its sales rose 2.6% in the four weeks to 26 December and were 21% up on 2019, before the pandemic.
The company said sales of Christmas puddings were up 23% and sparkling wine up 24%, while lamb proved a popular alternative to turkey with sales up 21%. The retailer’s fastest-selling product in its non-food “middle aisle” was the Lidl-branded Christmas jumper with one sold every two seconds on launch day.