As the festive season approaches, the newspapers seem to be full of doom and gloom regarding consumer confidence. I've even heard it may be the worst retail Christmas for 25 years.

These worries are completely overdone, especially where the more defensive food retailers are concerned. My view is non-consensus: the supermarkets (and indeed any retailer that provides shoppers with the right product and merchandises it correctly) will have a bumper Christmas, both from a sales growth, and a profits growth perspective.

The majors enjoyed a good Christmas last year, and comparatives are tough (for example Sainsbury's like-for-like sales growth accelerated from 2.8% to 5.2% in October-December last year).

However we do not think the pace of industry like-for-like sales growth will slow. Inflation is back in the system and, regardless of what Sir Terry says, it's going to hang around deep into the New Year.

And underlying volumes are very strong too, as the suddenly health- and environmentally aware UK consumers seem increasingly willing to trade up into more value added products.

Shoppers may allow their belts out a bit at Christmas (literally), but there is no reason why (if it's not a contradiction in terms) they'll stop doing so in a health-conscious way.

And the lack of price promotion over the past few months plus these trading up trends are all great news for gross margins, too. In margin terms, the industry goes on to auto-pilot in December: if there were going to be any spats on price that would have happened last month and, apart from the odd local bit of difficulty, price-cutting was conspicuous by its absence.

Conditions may get tougher in the New Year (although the industry won't hurry from truce to all-out war) but we expect the quoted food retailers' Christmas trading statements will largely be wall-to-wall joy in the second week of January.

So how can The Grocer readers benefit from these bullish announcements?

They can ensure stockings full of Sainsbury (strong sales growth will now start dropping through to the bottom line) and M&S (clothing and food driving sales for each other in equal measure) shares are at the very top of the list they send to Santa. And how convenient that right now they trade at £3.99 and £6.99 respectively!