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Retail Report: Holiday buying heats up

November presents opportunity for increased holiday seafood sales

by Staff Writer
September 01, 2012

The year-end holiday season accounts for high sales and wide areas of opportunity across the fresh seafood department as consumers purchase high-value products for parties and family gatherings. When forecasting for the upcoming holiday season, it is important to know which holidays drive sales, and where the opportunity for growth is highest. 

The 2011 season accounted for 18.2 percent of total seafood department dollar sales in 2011, which was steady compared to the 2010 holiday season. Seafood was more heavily purchased during the second half of the season, as average weekly dollar sales during December were 64 percent higher than total sales for November.  

The month of November presents a large opportunity for the seafood department to grow sales. Average weekly sales of $22,523 per store during the month was steady compared to the previous year. Weekly seafood sales in November were driven by fresh seafood, at $17,675 per store, followed by prepared seafood ($3,884 per store) and other seafood ($963 per store).

Seafood sales remained largely steady during the first three weeks of November, with a low point of $5,228 per store the week of Nov. 5, 2011. Thanksgiving week was the highest-selling week for the department during November. Sales spiked to $6,115, which was steady compared to the previous year’s sales during that same week. 

The Eastern region had the highest contribution to seafood sales during November, with an average of $37,516 per store per week. Like the national trend, fresh seafood accounted for the bulk of weekly sales in the Eastern region at $29,910 per store. The Central region had the second highest weekly seafood sales for the month of November 2011 at $20,217 per store, followed by the Southern region at $19,800 and the West at $17,482. Fresh seafood accounted for the bulk of department sales in each region, however, other seafood, which includes products such as seafood sauces and seasonings, dips and spreads, and side items, grew 6.3 percent, due in part to 12 percent growth in the East, and 9 percent growth in the South. 

The seafood department posted its highest and lowest weekly dollar sales of the 2011 holiday season in December. During the second half of the holiday season, the department posted average weekly sales of $36,901 per store, an increase of 3.3 percent compared to the previous year. As with the first half of the holiday season, fresh seafood dominated weekly department sales during December with $28,348 per store, a 3 percent increase from the previous year. However, prepared seafood drove the department’s overall sales increase, growing 4.6 percent compared to the previous year. Prepared seafood posted weekly sales of $7,095 per store, followed by other seafood with $1,459 per store, an increase of 3.2 percent. 

Seafood sales dipped the week following Thanksgiving to a season low of $4,829 per store. However, the following week, seafood sales more than doubled, eventually peaking the week of the Christmas holiday. The following week of New Year’s Eve seafood posted the season’s second highest sales at $9,376. 

Regional trends during December mirrored those of November, although total dollar sales were higher each week in December. Fresh seafood dominated sales in each region, and the East and Central regions were the highest contributors to seafood sales. During December, the East again posted the highest average weekly sales, at $67,056 (double that of the region’s contribution to total sales in November). The Central region had the second highest contribution to total seafood sales in December with $37,058 per store per week, followed by the West at $29,545 and the Southern region at $28,206. 

Based on performance during the 2011 year-end holiday season, a few categories deserving continued focus include shrimp and finfish. Both categories drove department sales in November and December, increasing from the previous year likely due in part to average retail price increases of approximately 5 percent for finfish, and more than 10 percent for shrimp. During November the other prepared seafood category, increased sales by 5.9 percent compared to the previous year. 

This sales review is provided by the Nielsen Perishables Group. Based in Chicago, the Nielsen Perishables Group specializes in research, analytics, marketing communications, category development, promotional best practices and shopper insights. Reported results are for the week ending Nov. 5, 2011 to Dec. 31, 2011, compiled from grocery stores nationwide representing 62 percent of national supermarket ACV share. For more information, contact Kelli Beckel at: (773) 929-7013; kelli.beckel@nielsen.com. 

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