The number of beer deals is up a massive 66% on Christmas 2008, while cider promotions have soared a hefty 153%, according to research for The Grocer by consultancy Assosia [4w/e 11 Dec 2009].
The promotional surge has driven the number of Christmas booze deals in the major retailers above 2,000 for the first time ever, but the number of deals on Champagne and sparkling wine has bucked the trend, falling 3% on last year as retailers shift their focus within the category.
Of the big five, Sainsbury's has increased booze deals the most with 41% more offers than last year. On beer promos alone, the effect has been still more dramatic Morrisons, Tesco and Sainsbury's have all upped them by more than 70%.
"At a glance, it looks as if retailers are gearing up for a chav's Christmas, but there's more going on than that," said Assosia MD Kay Staniland. "Beer and lager have lost space to wine in the past 18 months, and it's been a difficult time for brewers."
Promotions on beer have not been as prevalent in 2009 as in previous years due to missed sporting events, poor weather and the recession, she said. "This is partly why these categories, not traditionally promoted heavily at Christmas, are seeing so much extra activity now."
Alex Waters, brand analyst at The Value Engineers, agreed that the wet summer had exacerbated a tough year for the beer industry. "The winter season is historically a very tough one for beer and cider, and after a washout summer suppliers need to recover sales," he said. "Maybe cider is the new Champagne. It's the right colour, after all shoppers can get a good deal on cider and pretend it's champers on Christmas morning."
Suppliers, however, hit out at over-promotion, accusing retailers of using drinks companies as "pawns". "Retailers seeking to increase market share and footfall use BWS as a pawn," said Mark Gerken, off-trade MD for Heineken UK. "New tactics are being deployed, with deeper cuts such as the recent Carlsberg four-for-£1 deal in Morrisons. There are other ways consumers can get tremendous value for money without having to resort to deep discounting."
Sales of lager have grown 4.3% to £2.9bn over the past year but volumes have dropped 1.4% [Nielsen]. Ale and stout value is up 6.1% to £588m but volume is up just 0.4% [52w/e 3 October].