Christmas sales failed to live up to expectations in many independent stores, with data showing a fall in volumes combined with a rise in food waste

With no restrictions expected for seasonal social events last year, many local stores said they forecast a second year of bumper seasonal sales, following on from 2020’s record-setting Christmas. 

However, the latest Kantar stats revealed that, while total sales in symbol group and other independent convenience stores were up by 5% on pre-pandemic seasonal sales in 2019, sales across the sector were down by 10.5% compared with 2020. 

A survey of betterRetailing readers last week found nearly half were down on 2019, with urban and transient stores once again hit by a loss of trade due to work-from-home guidance and cancelled events over Christmas and New Year. 

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The gap between forecasts and performance was highlighted in foodwaste data for convenience stores given to betterRetailing by Too Good To Go

While managing director Paschalis Loucaides said waste usually increases over Christmas as stores expand their range and stock holding, he added: “The total volume of food made available, and the total volume of food saved on our app increased by 15% from the end of October to the beginning of January.” 

The trend appeared across Sue Nithyanandan’s Costcutter Epsom in Surrey. She told betterRetailing: “We over-bought crucial Christmas lines after hearing predictions of shortages,” she said. “People didn’t spend as much as we expected. I ordered a lot of fresh food, and it was disappointing that it didn’t shift.” 

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Multi-site retailer Harj Dhasee added: “I acquired a lot of food wastage over Christmas across all stores, so I relied on Too Good To Go’s ‘magic bags’ to get rid of goods close to their sell-by dates.” 

While all grocers except Aldi and Ocado were down year on year in Kantar’s stats, independent stores suffered the biggest year-on-year drop of any grocery market segment, leading its share of seasonal grocery spending to fall from £1.70 per £100 spent in 2020 to £1.60 per £100 in 2021. 

Describing overall grocery sales, Kantar’s head of retail and consumer insight, Fraser McKevitt, said: “The data suggests that while there were no formal rules in place across the UK this year, many people celebrated at home again due to Omicron.” 

McKevitt said that while the eat-in trend delivered record sales for convenience stores in 2020, shoppers had more confidence in supermarket availability in 2021. “They didn’t feel the need to rush out much earlier to get their festive treats,” he said.

Read more about Christmas products and seasonal advice