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Christmas grocery store

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If you planned wisely and shopped the Thanksgiving grocery sales, you ought to be well-stocked on pantry staples to get you through the rest of the holiday season. So if stores and brands want you to buy any more, they’d better make you some offers you can’t resist.

That’s one of the takeaways from a couple of reports on holiday season spending, which predicted we’ll be too busy buying gifts (like this woman) to get a whole lot of groceries.

According to the National Retail Federation, we’ll spend more on gifts this year – an average of $805.65, up slightly from $802.45 last year. But we may end up borrowing from our grocery budget to pay for them.

A separate IRI MarketPulse survey finds that two-thirds of us are planning “festive but frugal holiday celebrations,” by “seeking deals, with pre-planning and coupons a key part of their money-saving strategies.”

That may have something to do with overall higher prices in the grocery store. Sales volume for consumer packaged goods (CPGs) has been flat this year, IRI found, but dollar sales are up – “largely due to price increases,” the report concluded.

If brands want to finish the year strong, IRI says they’re going to have to provide some incentives for us to buy their products.

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“While consumers want to be festive, they are very much keeping in mind their finances today and what they expect to face in the new year,” the report reads. So as shoppers look for money-saving strategies, “getting the right mix of delivery mechanisms into the hands of key shoppers will be critical for CPGs looking to secure a place on holiday shopping lists.”

Coupons, as you might expect, are the main money-saving tools that shoppers expect to use over the holidays. 54% of those surveyed said they plan to use grocery coupons to save on their holiday festivities. 34% plan to purchase private label products, and 23% plan to buy in bulk.

So IRI recommends that brands “serve up promotions that are tailored to the needs and wants of key shoppers and targets.” 10% of shoppers say they’re likely to make additional, unplanned purchases if they come across unexpected deals. So IRI says brands would be wise to provide them. At the same time, brands can promote premium, gourmet items as “smart splurges”, so they don’t necessarily have to cut prices on everything.

Particularly vulnerable are sellers of big-ticket items like meats. They’re expected to make up 22% of our holiday grocery budget, which makes them “prime targets for spending cutbacks.”

Curiously, one category in which IRI predicts we won’t cut back, is alcohol. “This season, alcoholic beverage categories are expected to be somewhat sheltered from declines, as consumers look to adult beverages to help keep their holidays festive and bright.”

So if you can’t afford to serve your holiday guests an expensive cut of meat, just make sure you keep the booze flowing. With any luck, then, they might not notice – or care – that you’ve cut back at all.

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