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Is the election to blame for Christmas pudding sales falling 16%?

Sales of Christmas puddings and seasonal biscuits are down as shoppers delay stocking up on festive supplies ahead of the general election.

Grocery sales growth slowed to a modest 0.5% in the 12 weeks to 1 December compared with the year before, industry figures show.

Data published by the market researcher Kantar revealed purchases of Christmas puddings and seasonal biscuits were down 16% and 12% in the past four weeks compared with this time last year.

Shoppers spent £28m on advent calendars – up 1% – and sales of fresh and frozen party food have risen by 7%.

The number of people claiming to take advantage of Black Friday this year fell to 53% from 57% last year.

Kantar said this signalled “promotion fatigue” among consumers, increased scepticism regarding the value of the deals on offer, and some retailers backing away from the day altogether.

The event is always less significant in the supermarket calendar – and this year, only 5% of Black Friday bargain hunters bought something from a grocer.

Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar, said: “With the general election now only days away, people are waiting to fill their cupboards for the festive break.

“We’re yet to see consumers ramp up their spending in the run-up to Christmas and, as anticipated, Black Friday only brought a limited boost for the grocers.”

The big four supermarkets – Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons – have continued to feel the squeeze from smaller rivals, seeing their collective market share dropping to 67.7% from 69.1% this time last year.

Sales growth of 9.3% during the past 12 weeks propelled Lidl to a new record high market share of 6.1%.

Aldi’s year-on-year growth of 6.2%, worth £129m in additional sales, takes its market share to 8%.

Tesco was the best performing of the largest grocers over the past 12 weeks, despite sales falling by 0.8%.

Sales at Sainsbury’s were down 1.1%, while Asda dropped by 1.9%.

Morrisons’ share of grocery sales dropped back 0.4 percentage points to 10.1% as sales declined by 2.9%.

Ocado continued to be the fastest-growing grocer, with sales 13.7% higher than this time in 2018.

Mr McKevitt said: “While the big four all lost share in the past 12 weeks, 98% of the British public still visited at least one of their stores during the past three months.

“Based on previous years, we expect them to increase their proportion of sales in the coming weeks as shoppers turn to familiar favourites and the traditional retailers in December.”

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