Nothing says “Christmas” like the annual debate over whose advert is the best (or this year the most sexist or frugal), the proliferation of confectionery tins on shelf and the sudden onslaught of seasonal deals.

Those deals seem to have arrived earlier than ever this year. Four of the big five have ramped up their promotions in the past month. In the fourweeks to 4 November, Tesco ran 32.1% more deals than in the same period last year, Sainsbury’s ran 31.7% more, Waitrose 22.7% and Asda 16.1%.

Only Morrisons bucked the trend, running 0.3% fewer. Announcing its third-quarter results on Thursday, it said it had put measures in place to improve the effectiveness of its promotional activity. Clearly holding back its activity, to the extent it was middle of the pack in terms of the number of promotions last month rather than way out ahead as it was last year, is part of its strategy.

Wholesale prices: pork continues to soar as stall ban looms

As Europe prepares for the partial sow stall ban, which comes into force on 1 January, pork prices continue to soar. At £1,419.7/t, Danish pork is now nearly 15% more expensive than this time last year, having risen a further 3.4% over the past month. Pork prices in the UK are also up, rising 7.9% year-on-year and 2.4% month-on-month to £1,566/t.

The impact of the impending stall ban has been exacerbated by rising input costs, prompting an increasing number of producers to reduce herds or exit the sector.

Conversely, lamb prices have been on a downward trajectory. UK lamb is now about 5% cheaper at wholesale than it was a year ago, with New Zealand lamb down 21.8% year-on-year. Lamb prices soared last year after New Zealand suffered a particularly harsh winter in 2010/11, which reduced global supply. This year, supply is returning to more normal levels, prompting a correction in prices.

It has, however, mitigated the reduction in deals, by increasing the depth of cut year on year. It offered an average saving of 37.1%, which, with all but Asda moving in the opposite direction, made it the deepest discounter by nearly 5 percentage points. The gulf in own-label promos was even greater, with Morrisons offering an average saving of 39.8% while rivals’ own-label discounts were in the 20s percentage-wise.

The key mechanic behind Morrisons’ continued deep discounting is half-price, which made up 37% of the 2,292 deals in ran last month. The closest to that was Tesco with 21.6% of its 2,529 deals offering half-price. Morrisons also ran the fewest x-for-y multibuys. These made up 21.8% of its deals, while Asda doubled the use of that mechanic so 42.7% of its 2,147 deals were multibuys.

In terms of category focus, Morrisons pulled back on impulse lines but ran more BWS, health & beauty and household deals than last year.

Across the big five, wine remained the most promoted sub-category thanks to Waitrose, followed by ambient confectionery, which, surprisingly, accounted for 7.4% of all promotions, down from 11.9%, despite the growing popularity of Halloween. Spirits and soft drinks were more promoted than last year, while beer, cakes and biscuits were less.