Success of TV show helps to drive boom in sales of equipment and £140m of ingredients
Dixons, which owns PC World and Currys, said sales of electrical cooking equipment such as mixers, juicers and coffee machines were outpacing the must-have technology gift, rising by more than 80% year on year.
An estimated £140m is expected to be spent on home baking ingredients in the UK over the festive season, up 17% on last year, with the market now worth around £900m a year.
The boom is being driven by the popularity of programmes such as The Great British Bake Off and because people are trying to save money by cooking more meals from scratch, and entertaining at home rather than eating out.
A third of all bakery ingredients sales are made over Christmas, according to Tesco, which is predicting that sales of these products will be up by as much as 20% on last year. The UK's biggest supermarket says it has also seen unprecedented demand for baking utensils and equipment this year – as well as ready-to-roll pastry, marzipan and icing and cake decorations.
Retailers are hoping to further galvanise sales with a focus today on Stir-up Sunday – Christmas puddings are traditionally made on the last Sunday before Advent to give them time to mature.
"With home baking being back in fashion and times being hard financially, consumers are more likely to be making their own Christmas cake this year than ever before," said Darren Atherton, home baking products buyer for Tesco.
Sales of kitchen equipment are also likely to be lifted this Christmas by a preference for more practical presents during tough economic times. Waitrose has seen sales of sieves, preserving jars, cookie cutters and mixing bowls rise by more than 50%, while colanders, graters and jam thermometers have soared by 56%.
Waitrose's commercial director, Mark Williamson, said: "A homespun Christmas is in store this year."
Dixons said that, after years in the doldrums, sales of small kitchen appliances are growing faster than any other area of the business. "It's thanks to Mary Berry," said chief executive Sebastian James. "The kitchen has become a fundamental part of the home and customers are demanding better products."
That growth has been partly driven by retailers' efforts to cut prices to take on heavy competition from online specialists such as Appliances Online.
Overall, sales volumes of small kitchen equipment in the UK have risen for the first time in three years, according to market analyst GfK. It said the number of items sold rose 1.9% in the year to October, while the value of sales rose 5.7% as people chose to buy more expensive gadgets. Top sellers are juicers, with sales worth nearly double those of last year.
A spokesperson for John Lewis said: "We have seen a trend for home comforts, food preparation and entertaining at home promoted by TV programmes such as MasterChef. It's no longer enough to watch celebrity chefs using the tricks of the trade to create stunning dishes."
John Lewis department stores have seen a 52% increase in sales of stand mixers, 26% in kettles and 22% in coffee machines year on year, while sales of juicers are up 210% thanks to a health trend kicked off by the American documentary film Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead.
Meanwhile, snazzy designs and a broader range of colours, teamed with glitzy marketing campaigns, are helping to support sales of old staples such as kettles because shoppers want to match all their kitchen gadgets. The KitchenAid mixer, for instance, comes in more than 20 colours. While the total value of sales of kettles and toasters fell by 1.9% last year, shoppers are prepared to spend on new gadgets, with steam mops up 200% year on year, according to Dixons.
Sales of kitchen gadgets are so good that in March Currys and PC World will test a new specialist kitchen area with mini room sets, demonstrations and more attractive displays that reflect the fashionability of the products on display. They will combine electrical goods with cookware and even tableware to attract more women.
"We think gaining share in kitchenware is a big opportunity," James said. "The small kitchen appliances market was destroyed by retailers' own-labels. The market had been driven to the lowest price possible, but is now moving back up."
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