Trying to demonstrate the impact of a campaign on subsequent sales is a loose science, but a connection does exist. So what happened between the big campaigns breaking and the trading updates in January?
As always, the retailers went all out. Marks & Spencer put a fat bet on Percy Pig, Aldi rolled out Marcus Rashford and John Lewis produced another emotional episode in its festive canon.
The annual John Lewis extravaganza is so eagerly anticipated it’s become a bona fide Christmas moment, like stressing over the turkey. Our experts gave their verdict on the latest instalment here, but John Lewis is playing it coy this year when it comes to sales figures. Occasionally it provides a quick Christmas update, but this year it says it will wait until March to deliver them.
Marks & Spencer
M&S made hero product Percy Pig the hero of its campaign in 2021, combining a Christmassy feel with some standout products on show in the TV element.
And it worked. M&S said seasonal sales were up 8.9 per cent overall compared to pre-pandemic times, and sales of food and drink were up 10 per cent on 2020.
Chief executive Steve Rowe said Christmas trading had been “strong” with food sales in particular “outperforming” the market.
The stock market was less enthused – it was hoping for more profitability, and shares dropped 4.4 per cent following the announcement. But on sales alone, M&S can reasonably think the campaign performed well.
Christmas is a time when the supermarkets buckle up for a seasonal showdown in a fierce fight for customers. The Christmas TV promotion is a key footfall driver, and the supermarkets didn’t disappoint.
Tesco is the biggest supermarket in the UK, with 27.9 per cent of the market. It led with a COVID-19-defying ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ theme, analysed by our experts here. Amid gloomy anxiety over whether the big day would go ahead as planned, it was a cheery, positive message.
But it was Tesco’s turn to be on the receiving end of a backlash, because the TV element of its campaign featured Father Christmas holding a COVID-19 passport. Actor-turned-failed London Mayoral candidate Laurence Fox told polarising broadcaster GBNews he was “upset” and “appalled” and joined a small but vociferous chorus calling for a bizarre boycott of the supermarket.
Back in the real world, Tesco said sales were up over Christmas, admittedly by only 0.3 per cent, but also that they were up 8.8 per cent compared to the pre-pandemic results of two years ago.
Overall, Tesco chief executive Ken Murphy said he was “delighted” – and, clearly, the controversy did nothing to dampen sales.
With 15.7 per cent of the grocery market, Sainsbury’s comes next. The experts’ verdict on its TV ad is here, and the retailer was popping corks at its seasonal sales figures.
Champagne featured prominently and, particularly in the run-up to New Year’s Eve, sparkling sales of fizz contributing to an overall rise in sales of 0.8 per cent year on year.
So, while it wasn’t a dizzying rise, chief executive Simon Roberts said he was “really pleased” with the performance.
Sainsbury’s also owns Argos. Our expert reviews of its TV spot are here, but however good the entire campaign was, it would never be enough to smooth over the critical supply chain issues experienced by Argos in the run-up to Christmas.
From production to delivery, Sainsbury’s said various issues affected Argos’s seasonal sales of gadgets, TVs, games and toys.
Like John Lewis and Waitrose, Asda and Morrisons haven’t yet released a Christmas trading update. But Aldi, with 7.7 per cent of the market, has.
It has used its Kevin the Carrot mascot to powerful effect for six years. Our experts said this in 2021, and Aldi said it had enjoyed its “best ever Christmas” as a result.
Aldi is rare among the supermarkets in that it singled out its TV spot, which also tapped into Marcus Rashford-mania, as being a key driver in getting shoppers through the doors, specifically saying it had “helped attract half a million new shoppers in December”.
Overall, sales were up 0.4 per cent, and Aldi UK and Ireland chief executive Giles Hurley said Kevin the Carrot “reminded Britain you do not need to spend a lot to indulge your family at Christmas”.
With 6.3 per cent of the market, Lidl said it had achieved record footfall (up 14 per cent) over Christmas, a sales uplift of 2.6 per cent (and up 21 per cent compared to two years ago).
It also paid tribute to its campaign for driving sales – especially Christmas jumpers, which it said had a “starring role on- and off-screen”.
They featured prominently in stores, on offer in Lidl’s cheerfully cluttered ‘middle aisle of random stuff’, and the retailer said that on the first day of the jumpers being on sale it sold one every two seconds (although it declined to reveal how many jumpers were allocated to each store or the total number of jumpers sold).
Currys took a bit of a gamble on its Christmas campaign, easing off on promoting specific products in favour of reinforcing the expertise of its shop-floor staff in stores to help consumers choose big-ticket items, as opposed to saving a few pounds shopping online.
Nevertheless, Currys said seasonal sales in the UK and Ireland were down six per cent compared to last year.
However, that’s no reflection on the visual element of its Christmas campaign, which was funny and played to Currys’ strengths. It was more an indication of a tech market in a bit of a slump, COVID-19 dissuading shoppers from heading out, and the same supply chain issues that dogged Argos.
A version of this article first appeared on Campaign sister title PRWeek