Christmas 2016 Food Retail Review – Republic of Ireland

Christmas 2016 Food Retail Review – Republic of Ireland


Christmas week is a truly enormous trading period, with sales ramping up through December and peaking in the week up to Christmas eve.  Sales jump significantly in this final week versus a regular week.  Shoppers are well stocked-up and emerge from Christmas hibernation to top-up on bread and milk, preparation for New Year’s Eve parties and maybe even some early January sales shopping.  It is important to observe the market closely in the weeks leading up to and after Christmas for three key reasons;

  1. It is a major logistical challenge for a business to deal with this sales uplift so it highlights the strengths and weaknesses of the end to end supply chain.
  2. The retail strategy at Christmas is a strong indicator of overall strategic direction.
  3. Christmas is a time for retailers to put their best foot forward and impress their customers.


The retail survey is an assessment of the key activities taking place within the grocery retail sector during Christmas 2016.  The report focuses on range, price and promotion activities but also comments on marketing, stock levels, currency impacts, money-off vouchers and the resulting market share performance.


The research was carried out through a combination of store visits, on-line research, marketing materials review and an online survey.  Research commenced on 15-Dec-16 and extended to 26-Jan-17.

Executive Summary

Premium Ranges

Christmas 2016 was highly competitive.  With improving economy and purse strings loosening slightly, the retailers saw an opportunity to expand premium ranges.  This was in line with their all year around strategies but much more overt since consumers want more options to trade up and spend more money at Christmas.

Competitive Core Ranges

This premiumisation was placed right alongside a very competitive core range.  There is now minimal differentiation in the basic ranges and the prices are very keen across the market.

Currency Exchange Rates

There was an added reason for ROI retailers to be extra-competitive this Christmas.  From mid-October to early November ’16 the £/€ exchange rate fluctuated around 1.10 to 1.12 with reports of strong alcohol sales in Northern Ireland thanks to cross-border shopping.  The overall offer food was largely based on EDLP pricing with many seasonal products launching and staying at the same price. It was still a challenge for consumers to make sense of everything with quite widely varying prices depending on what quality tier they picked up whilst shopping.

Money Off Vouchers

Some retailers enjoyed good success with their vouchering activities in both holding and winning new business. The combination of high volume ‘value’ ranges and lower volume premium ranges is leading to a polarisation of volume and value where a relatively small cohort of products is being subjected to price deflation.  At the same time, retailers have deployed new strategies to concurrently inject some value and profit back into their range mix.  Opportunities remain for all the retailers and suppliers to grow their businesses.

The ROI market is interesting for several reasons:

  1. High discounter market share at +22% combined
  2. High private label penetration
  3. Consumers with strong knowledge of farming and the food retail market
  4. Money off voucher dynamics.
  5. Post-recession consumer sentiment dynamics

If your business is currently operating in the Republic of Ireland market, then you’ll know how competitive it is. However, you might be surprised to learn how much potential still exists to grow your business. If you’re thinking of getting into the ROI market or you’re interested in applying learnings in your market then you should read this review.

The report is based around a full product survey over all the key food and drink categories.  225 product lines were surveyed to create a detailed gap analysis and competitive comparison.  Retailer advertising was studied as was the in-store experience.  Finally, bespoke research was undertaken with an online panel to further explore some of the trends especially around, premium private label, money-off vouchering, cross-border shopping and the impact of advertising.  The list below details the sub-sections of the report.

  1. Introduction
    1. Background
    2. Objectives
    3. Methodology
    4. Executive summary
  2. Detailed report
    1. Range convergence
    2. Price report
      • Core needs shop
      • Potential to spend study
    3. Promotional plan
    4. Range differentiation
      • Free From
      • Premium private label
    5. Exchange rates
      • What happened this time versus 2008?
    6. Stock Levels, reduce to clear & clean exits
    7. Market share summary
    8. Vouchers and customer retention
    9. Advertising
  3. Opportunities for retailers and suppliers

Please contact me for more details.

+353 87 9380216




Christmas Crescendo

Image copyright Paula Nolan Photography

I love Christmas – the whole crazy crescendo

I love Christmas.  I really love Christmas.  I love the buzz of making the season unfold and every year there’s a new surprise.  I love the pace and the satisfaction of pulling the whole operation together.  The ups and downs, the highs and lows of managing sales, volumes, quality and pricing.

I love the the whole crazy crescendo of nervous energy, excitement and tension.  You can barely take a day off in the last few weeks.  By 23rd December you and your team are truly running on empty.

Reserves?…There are none 

And you reach a point where there’s nothing much more you can do.  All the stock is out on shelf, all the pre-orders have been fulfilled, the final press ad deadline has passed, what will be will be. It’s down to the customers now.

It’s a bit like the pivotal scene in ‘The Battle of Britain’ when Prime Minister Churchill asks Fighter Command’s Air Vice Marshall Keith Park…

what other reserves have we?

and Park replies;

there are none

Breathing a sigh of relief

Suddenly, its late afternoon on Christmas eve.  You breath a sigh of relief because it is time to wrap up.  You’ve given it everything and the team are exhausted.  Another Christmas season under your belt.  Time to close up and make for home.

That’s the best bit of Christmas for me (and possibly for many of us obsessive compulsive retailers).  I love the journey home, an epic trading period behind me and nothing but family and friends ahead.

10 days to go – My first Christmas 2016 recce

It’s Thursday 15th December 2016 with just 10 trading days until Christmas. The weather has changed again and it’s 10oC outside.  Not at all wintry and certainly bad for sales!

I’ve taken a quick spin around the local Tesco, Dunnes, SuperValu, Lidl and Aldi stores.  Everyone is ready and braced for the first BIG shopping day on Saturday 17th. 

But something isn’t right….

………….there’s no buzz.

Then I remember that the children are still at school and there are lunch boxes to be filled. All the Christmas stock is out, except for the turkeys, which should start appearing the following Monday/Tuesday 19th/20th.

First up – best dressed

Tesco and Aldi are first out of the blocks with their 49c offers on carrots, sprouts, parsnips and yellow melons. Dunnes Stores follow on Saturday 17th.  It’s been a good few years since the days of 9c veg and IFA pickets

Food First Consulting Malachy O'Connor
Image copyright Paula Nolan Photography

Make or break

It’s the best time of the retail year.  Christmas can make or break your year as a retailer.  And it can result in a few grey hairs for the buyers if they run out of stock or realise they’ve ordered too much (you only ever have a 1 in 3 chance of getting it right!).

I wish the suppliers and farmers a safe Christmas as they deal with bad weather, stubborn machinery and short lead times.  With the help of God we’ll have no fatal farm accidents this Christmas.

Finally, I wish a merry Christmas trading season to all the retail operations folk who will work exceptionally hard to serve their customers in the next few days.

Merry Christmas


Food First Consulting

Christmas Mince Pies Food First Consulting