Christmas has come early for shoppers in the booze aisle - with festive deals and discounts rolling out weeks ahead of last year.

A snapshot survey of activity in the big four supermarkets on 19 November found major booze brands as much as 18% cheaper than on 19 November 2013.

And analysis of featured space promotions, such as those on pallets and in store entrances, showed alcohol already accounting for 21.5% of space, up from 19.5% this time last year [Assosia].

The increase has been driven by Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons in particular. Tesco is running almost a third more featured-space alcohol promotions than in 2013; Sainsbury’s 18% more and Morrisons 14% more.

On average across Britain’s top five lager brands - Budweiser, Carling, Carlsberg, Foster’s and Stella Artois - the price of a multipack was 4.5% cheaper this week than the year before. The steepest drop was Stella - down 6.1% year on year from an average of £2.17 a litre to £2.04 - followed by AB InBev stablemate Budweiser, down 5.8% to £2.32.

Foster’s, which was promoted particularly heavily during the World Cup this summer, bucked the trend and rose fractionally to £1.77.

Despite this, a senior big four buyer suggested the trend for low prices was a legacy of the World Cup, which he said “could often set the bar for Christmas”.

In both the ale and cider categories, mul­­tipacks of the top five brands were being sold 3.6% cheaper than a year ago. Among the steepest discounts are on two brands that have suffered declining sales this year - with the average price of Magners down 12.1% to £2.10, and Stella Artois Cidre down 7.5% to £1.93.

Deep discounting is also taking place in the spirits fixture, with the average price of larger (70cl-plus) bottles of the top five spirits brands - Smirnoff Red, The Famous Grouse, Glen’s, Gordon’s and Bell’s - down 7.8% to £19.21.

The Famous Grouse recorded the steepest drop, with prices down 17.8% year on year as a result of deep promotions on the brand starting up to two weeks earlier at Tesco and Sainsbury’s than last year.

“With the discounters making bigger headlines at the moment, the major multiples need to ensure they do not lose out during this crucial period,” said Kay Staniland, MD of retail analysts Assosia.