Promotional activity has fallen for the first time in months, but the multiples are just steadying themselves for the big festive push. Ronan Hegarty reports

While many of us are still clinging on to the vain hopes of an Indian summer, the retailers have already moved on and are setting their sights firmly on December.

Christmas promotions are already taking centre stage in the supermarkets' featured space, alongside those for Hallowe'en.

As the multiples gear up for the festive push they have scaled back the overall number of deals slightly over the past month, calling a halt to months of growth.

The total number of promotions has fallen 0.8% to 8,215 in the past four weeks [Assosia 4w/e 21 September 2009], although it remains 26% higher than it was at this time last year.

Deals on branded goods, which make up 83.7% of the offers in featured space, were up 1%. However own-label promos were down 8.8% from 1,473 last month to 1,343.

However, the lull is likely to be the calm before the storm. With activity targeting both Hallowe'en and Christmas expected to be ramped up in the coming weeks, experts are predicting record numbers of promotions just around the corner.

In terms of the major brand owners, McVitie's has jumped to the top of the class this month, with 152 promotions compared with 114 in the previous four weeks. Its average discount has also risen from 33.9% to 39.9% month-on-month, although this is down on last year, when it was offering average savings of 43.4%.

This month has also brought a significant shift in McVitie's preferred promotional mechanic. The biscuit and cake brand has halved the number of bogofs it uses to just 18.4% of its offers, compared with 37% last year. It now favours using basic price-cut deals, which have increased from just 10% last year to 24.3% now.

Nestlé climbed up to second spot from fourth last month, largely on the back of its activity in Morrisons. Of its 142 promotions this month, 62 were with the Bradford-based retailer. This was twice as many as at Asda, which had the second most Nestlé deals.

Nestlé has reduced its average saving to 28.1%, down 12.5 percentage points on last year .

Conversely, Mars' average saving of 33% was 12 percentage points higher than 12 months ago.

The average saving of 32.7% on branded deals this month has fallen since August, when it was 35.1%. The average saving of 32.8% on all supermarket deals has also fallen, from 33.8% last month. However, this is still up from the 31.5% recorded last year.