Next Friday will see the biggest shopping day of the year - and perhaps the biggest ever recorded - as festive consumers splurge ahead of Christmas Day.
Some of that indulgence has already begun. During the 12 weeks to 3 December, alcohol sales were up nearly £172m on 2016, as we opted for more expensive tipples such as gin - which was up 26 per cent; whisky - up 10 per cent; and sparkling wine - up seven per cent, according to Kantar Worldpanel.
All this bodes well for the last two days of trading before Christmas itself, when the data firm estimates we will part with £1.5bn in supermarkets up and down the country. Some of that can be explained by inflation, however, with the cost of groceries rising 3.6 per cent - the highest level since 2013.
Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar Worldpanel, said: “Christmas day falls on a Monday this year – last time that happened, in 2006, the Friday before was the most popular day for grocery shopping that year.
"If we see a similar pattern in 2017, Friday 22 December is likely to win out as the grocers enjoy not only the biggest shopping day of 2017, but the most successful ever recorded. Over Friday 22 and Saturday 23 December, we expect shoppers to part with an eye-watering £1.5 billion as they fill their trollies ahead of Christmas day.”
The sector has experienced a strong 12 week period ahead of the big day. Aldi has returned to the top of the Christmas tree as Britain's fastest growing grocer, with sales up 15.1 per cent, just ahead of Lidl's 14.5 per cent growth.
The big four put in a respectable performance, with sales up 1.9 per cent - the ninth consecutive period of growth.
Tesco was the fastest growing of the gang, with sales up 2.5 per cent, although this was not enough to stop further erosion of its market share to 28.2 per cent. Sainsbury's grew sales two per cent, with its market share falling to 16.3 per cent, while Morrisons' 1.4 per cent failed to stop its decline to 10.6 per cent. Sales at Asda were up 1.2 per cent, but its market share also fell.
Update: Nielsen is also expecting a bumper pre-Christmas period for supermarkets, but it estimates that £4.2bn will be spent in the final week before the big day. That's a 3.6 per cent increase on the same week last year, and 50 per cent more than a typical week.
Mike Watkins, Nielsen’s UK head of retailer insight, gave the same reasoning for the uptick.
“With Christmas Day falling in a Monday, people are likely to delay their big Christmas shop until the final week and we expect nearly all shoppers will visit a grocery retailer at least twice that week,” he said. “There’ll be a particular surge between Thursday 21 and Saturday 23 December - when over half of shoppers are likely to be shopping for the second time that week – with one in five shoppers indicating Friday will be the preferred day, allowing the weekend to be spent with friends and family.
“The seven days trading available up until the Sunday is good news for the supermarkets which should benefit the big out of town stores in particular as shoppers take advantage of Christmas promotions and stock up on fresh foods.”