ECONOMY

Supermarket sales slump to record low in 2011

Supermarket sales sank to a record six-year low in 2011 as Greek consumers cut spending even on basic foodstuffs, buying less in terms of quantity as well as selecting lower-priced goods, such as own-brand labels.

The hardest-hit products in 2011 were those that were affected by increases in value-added tax or the special consumption tax, such as soft drinks, juices and alcoholic beverages. Pasta, on the other hand, appears to be proving fairly resistant, likely due to the fact that it is a cheap option for rapidly shrinking Greek family budgets.

According to Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT), the volume of sales index (sales in fixed prices) for supermarkets reached 97.8 points in 2011, the lowest level since 2005, which is used as a base (2005 = 100 points), while up to and including 2010 the same index stood at over 100 points. The volume of sales index for smaller outlets carrying the same products reached 75.7 points in 2011, again, the lowest level since 2005.

Data collected by the Nielsen market research company with regard to over-100 sq.m. supermarkets (with the exception of the Sklavenitis chain) led to similar conclusions. The data cover outlets located in Epirus, the Peloponnese, Crete and Ionian and Aegean islands.

According to the survey, total sales reached 9.489 billion euros in 2011 compared to 9.704 billion in 2010.

Meanwhile, sales of own-brand products are on the rise, especially in the so-called fast-moving categories (items including dairy goods, bread and cooked meats which are frequently purchased by consumers), with sales reaching 1.439 billion euros in 2011, marking an increase of 4.6 percent compared to the previous year. Looking at data collected for each category is of particular interest.

The volume of whole milk sales, for instance, went down by 2.4 percent in 2011, while a 1 percent rise posted in the value of sales was due to the fact that a large number of companies operating in the dairy sector slightly increased their prices, mainly as a result of higher supplier prices in 2011 (these went up by 15.3 percent on average, according to data released by the Hellenic Milk and Meat Federation).

A steep drop in yogurt sales continued in 2011, with the sales volume retreating by 5 percent compared to the previous year. The companies? decision to cut down on special offers resulted in a 0.9 percent decrease in sales in terms of value.

Pasta sales meanwhile remain at the same levels as last year in terms of volume, while turnover in 2011 displayed a marginal drop of 0.9 percent.

On the other hand, however, sales of non-alcoholic beverages (juices, soft drinks), spirits and beer fell considerably. According to Nielsen data, in terms of volume, juice sales went down by 10 percent in 2011 compared to 2010, soft drinks by 7 percent, spirits by 15.4 percent and beer by 6.9 percent.

Meanwhile, some consumers seem to be turning increasingly to wine, which does not carry the special consumption tax. As a result, the volume of sales in 2011 recorded a small rise of 0.7 percent compared to the year before.