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Times are tough, but this is what Aussies won’t go without for Christmas

There are some non-negotiables at Christmas time.

There are some non-negotiables at Christmas time. Photo: TND/Getty

As we head into the end of year with Christmas and the summer holidays looming, what does the festive season hold for Australians?

With no relief in sight from inflation, which is staying at higher-than-expected levels, plus interest rates at the highest levels for years and global uncertainty due to wars in Ukraine and Palestine, there are many reasons why Australians may feel less than positive right now.

The Westpac-Melbourne Institute Consumer Sentiment index in Australia fell 2.6 per cent to 79.9 in November, down from 82 in October.

This is a return to deeply pessimistic levels with the RBA’s November rate hike putting renewed pressure on family finances and reigniting concerns about both the rising cost of living and the prospect of further rate rises.

What does this mean for how Aussies will celebrate the festive season and summer holidays?

A recent marketing research study conducted by Focus Insights on Christmas grocery spending sheds light on current grocery shopper behaviours and preferences for the upcoming celebrations.

The findings uncover a significant trend with two-thirds (67 per cent) of Australian households stating rising prices are forcing them to spend more to stay on par with last year’s festive season catering.

“This aligns with overall 2023 shopper behaviour trends, which indicate more Australians are value hunting and strategic shopping than ever before to maintain a similar living standard as 12 months ago,” Focus Insights director Neil Moody said.

Going into Christmas, shoppers are expected to continue trading down and shopping around for the best deals to meet their budgets.

Coles chief executive Leah Weckert predicts shoppers will be choosing “sparkling wine, prosecco and rosé over Champagne, swapping craft beer for mainstream brands, and picking up premixed drinks over spirits as Coles strives to prove it has a range of budget-friendly options ahead of Christmas amid rising cost-of-living pressures”.

Despite the cost-of-living pressures, Christmas just isn’t Christmas without dining on turkey, ham and seafood.

What is the one food you can’t miss out on this festive season? Source: Focus Insights

According to the Focus Insights study, a staggering 85 per cent of Australians are gearing up to celebrate Christmas, showing the scale of the festive season in our country.

And when it comes to festive feasts, preferences diversify: 38 per cent of households favour the classic traditional roast lunch or dinner, while 24 per cent opt for a combination of roast and seafood. Some 7 per cent will enjoy seafood-exclusive meals and 6 per cent barbecues.

If Aussies need to leave any festive treats out of their shopping basket, over one-third state they can’t afford to miss out on Christmas ham and nearly one-quarter are determined seafood is a must on the dining table.

To Leah Weckert’s point, forget the champers this year because 25 per cent of shoppers say they can’t miss out on beer at Christmas (no need to worry Santa there will be plenty in fridges across Australia) and following the rise in non-alcoholic beverage consumption and catering for the little ones, 20 per cent of households will definitely be consuming soft drinks.

What is the one drink you can’t miss out on this festive season? Source: Focus Insights

So what are households planning to spend on Christmas catering?

“On average, the home Christmas catering officer is preparing to feed eight people, with an anticipated spend of $235. Notably, the 30 to 50 age bracket are the most significant spenders, earmarking an estimated $274 for Christmas celebrations,” Moody said.

How much are you budgeting to spend on food and beverages this festive season? Source: Focus Insights

From a grocery retail perspective this suggests that major supermarkets and associated liquor outlets will be the big winners this festive season on the back of strong regular footfall and inflation-driven spending.

As Australians gather around the Christmas table with favourite dishes and clink glasses filled with beverages, it’s not just a celebration of tradition but one of resilience and adaptability in the face of current economic challenges.

Steve Doherty is a marketing communications consultant and business adviser

Topics: Christmas
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