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Not such a Dry January at the supermarkets

Published:  07 February, 2017

It was more a case of Try January rather than Dry January at multiples last month as shoppers stocked up on alcohol despite the trend moving towards healthier shopping habits.

According to monthly Nielsen figures, sales of beers, wines and spirits saw a sales uplift of 2.1%, making it best performing major FMCG category in the supermarkets.

These findings were echoed by growing alcohol retailer eBay.

Despite an estimated two million people giving a miss this January, the online marketplace reported that a bumper number of 84,000 wine related items had been sold across the site during the month.

These items ranged from a 1995 Chateau La Croix Laroque vintage red to a bottle of Sunday Bay Sauvignon Blanc.

The online marketplace also saw nearly 50 champagne related items sold per hour and 23 Prosecco related products sold per day - making for a very 'dry white' January.

Despite a dip in sales after Christmas, Nielsen added that this year could be a positive one for UK supermarkets.

Although takings at the tills for the four weeks ending 28 January fell -1.1% versus the same period last year, Mike Watkins, Nielsen's UK head of retailer and business insight, said this was not an accurate representation of the sector's performance.

"Partly due to the timing of New Year negatively affecting comparative sales, the figures don't really reflect how the industry started the year. A better indicator is the last three weeks, during which till takings were up 0.3%," he said.

In addition to significant price cutting in January, an emphasis on more simple and permanent offers could continue to benefit the grocery sector over the coming year.

"We anticipate the industry to grow around 2% this year, an improvement on 2016, primarily due to the return of cost price inflation after three years of deflation and the depreciation of sterling - yet grocery spend remaining robust despite price rises.

"The discounters will continue to grow faster than this due to the acceleration of new store openings which could push their market share to 13% for the first ever time," Watkins said.

Frozen foods came in second behind BWSs as the second best performing FMCG category (+1.8%).

But while consumers were happy to stock up on alcohol, the trend towards healthy eating continued, reflecting in the growth of categories such as Sushi, up 15%.