Tracking sales from November 16 to November 29, the organisation claimed the sales increases the festive period usually brought were currently nowhere to be seen for most categories associated with Christmas.
IRI is basing its claims on value sales covering 12 favourite Christmas categories for the UK’s five major supermarkets as well as other independent retailers and convenience stores.
Findings indicated sales of mince pies, pickled onions and Brussels sprouts were down compared to the previous year by -12%, -16% and -23% respectively.
Frozen desserts, cream, poultry
In terms of overall food categories, the two that suffered the most across the fortnight were frozen desserts and cream – down 7.9% - and poultry – down 5.9%.
In addition, a large proportion of Christmas spend was usually on alcohol. However, early signs of sparkle were not obvious, with sales of wine and champagne down by -4.1%, liqueurs and spirits by -1.4% and beer and lager by -1.6%.
That said, a few individual products were bucking the trend. Sales of dates increased by 11% to break through the £1M barrier and sales of Christmas puddings rose by 2% to £3.7M, IRI’s analysis indicated.
The only super-category showing sales growth in the first two weeks of Christmas trading (compared to the same period last year) was decorations, cards, crackers and Christmas trees. Sales of these items rose by 3.3% to just under £32M.
“Prices usually start to rise just before Christmas as the deep promotions that retailers use throughout the year ease off a little, so that they can maximise the boost that Xmas usually brings,” said Tim Eales, IRI strategic insight director.
‘Very slow start’
“This year, sales growth is making a very slow start. One way to make Christmas easier to pay for is to spread the cost over a longer period, but we don’t see that so far.
“The traditional grocery sector is struggling against the growth of the discounters such as Aldi and Lidl and that is probably what’s behind these findings.”
According to the latest figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and financial services firm KPMG, like-for-like UK retail sales grew 0.9% in November.
Non-food driving factor
BRC director general Helen Dickinson said non-food, particularly electricals, had been the driving factor, especially during the infamous ‘Black Friday’ discounting day on November 28.
“However retailers also took advantage of the increased footfall generated by Black Friday to sell clothing, effectively bringing forward the start of Christmas sales reductions of autumn/winter stock,” said Dickinson.
“That being said, customers also bought full priced items and showed interest in premium ranges particularly in food and retailers who didn't discount for Black Friday also saw increased sales.”
Office for National Statistics figures released today (December 9) indicated an increase in overall production of 1.1% year-on-year from October 2013 to October 2014.
Christmas super categories
% change in sales value for two weeks ending November 29, 2014, compared to the same period in 2013
Wine & champagne
Liqueur & spirits
Chocolate and Christmas selection/novelty packs
Beer & lager
Gammon, beef, bacon
Crisps, snacks, nuts, dates
Cards, crackers, lights, wraps, trees, decorations
Seasonal cakes, puddings, pies
Frozen desserts & cream
Stocks, stuffing, gravy