Welcome to The Grocery Trader’s first issue of 2017 and Happy New year to all our readers. As we went to print, the latest ONS retail spending figures showed a 5.9% rise in November against 12 months before. Close Brothers Retail Finances quoted data from over 700 retailers in seven sectors, showing the average spend for electrical goods alone on Black Friday was twice as high as any other day in 2016.

These figures confirm that despite all the post-Brexit uncertainties, consumers continue to defy expectations and have been busy spending on the high street. Expert predictions vary about the likely rate of inflation this year, but 5.9% is still way ahead. It’s all very promising for the year in store.

Talking of challenging expectations, Rustlers, the UK’s bestselling micro snacking brand, has gone from £10m to £150m in 15 years and grown the category singlehanded. In this issue we interview Adrian Lawlor, Kepak Convenience Foods’ Marketing and Business Development Director. Adrian says there’s a groundswell of consumers out there who like to ‘Pimp My Rustlers’ with extra garnish and see them as quality food. The challenge is changing perceptions of Rustlers among people who haven’t tried the brand.

In this issue we also have features on Baby & Kids, World Foods and Big Night In. Christmas is over so let’s get down to business – what better for stimulating impulse purchases than a Big Night In? Shoppers feel low at this time of year. January comes after the long festive break, with no Bank Holiday in sight until Easter. January is when all the bills have to be paid, just after people have forked out for Christmas presents. But you can still have a big night in when you feel like it!

The exciting news for retailers and manufacturers in the Baby and Kids market is that the UK is now home to some of Europe’s biggest families, buying more products and spending more money. In 2013 around 10% of babies born in the UK had three or more older siblings. Big families mean big spenders.

Finally, the World Foods aisle really comes into prominence at this time of year. The lucky few can go skiing or take off on a long haul holiday. But for most grocery shoppers with modest means, after the expense of Christmas the nearest they’re likely to get to foreign travel right now is to visit their local grocery store for a taste of world food to brighten their meal times.

Here’s to a successful year all round, and to challenging expectations!

Written by Charles Smith, Editor, The Grocery Trader

This commentary first appeared in the January 2017 edition of The Grocery Trader.

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