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Xmas high-street sales falter but Majestic and Aldi thrive

Published:  07 January, 2020

Despite mixed results from the BWS sector over the Christmas trading period, some retailers were able to buck the trend.

Sales at Majestic were up 4.3% in the final quarter of 2019, the retailer’s first as a private company following its acquisition by the Fortress Investment Group.

Growth was driven by strong December sales for both rum and brandy, up 24% and 33% respectively, with English wines also up by 9%. French sparkling wines also performed exceptionally: Champagne sales grew by 11% while sales of crémant rose 32%. 

The chain also claimed 23rd December as the largest trading day in its 40-year history.

Chief executive John Colley, who led Majestic between 2015 and 2017 and has now returned to the business under its new ownership, attributed much of the retailer’s seasonal growth to the renewed loyalty of its customer base.

“What this result shows is that a strategy built around bricks, clicks and flicks can be a success in 2020 and beyond,” he said.

“We know in Majestic we have all the ingredients for a successful company, and our customers clearly responded well to the news we’d be keeping stores open – right across the country. Backed up by an exciting range, with plenty of new arrivals and relisted customer favourites, we’ve pulled out an impressive performance.”  

Also performing well over the festive season was Aldi, where sales in the BWS category rose by 9.2% year-on-year, driven by growth of over 14% in sparkling wines, the discount retailer reported.

Elsewhere on the high street, the festive season has been disappointing for drinks retailers.

“Shoppers popped fewer corks this year, as sparkling wine sales dipped by 8%,” Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar said. “However, both beer, up 1%, and still wine, up 2%, were more popular than in 2018.”

Overall, BWS sales at the UK’s supermarkets declined slightly by 0.1%, according to data from Nielsen, although low- and no-alcohol beer, cider and lager were up 24%.

Nielsen’s figures reveal that the grocery sector experienced its lowest growth since 2014, up just 0.5% on last year in the four-week Christmas trading period.

Discounters Lidl and Aldi outperformed their larger rivals, posting growth of 12.2% and 7.7% respectively, while the Co-op was up 3% and Iceland 1.9%.

Among the Big Four, Morrisons recorded the weakest sales – down 2.5% – and Sainsbury’s, where sales fell by 0.4%, the best.

Mike Watkins, head of retailer and business insight for Nielsen UK, said: “It is unsurprising that sales have remained relatively low over the December period, given that momentum continued to slow in the run up to Christmas this year.

“Despite the festive season, consumers are evidently remaining cautious by taking advantage of greater price competition and special offers.”