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Setback for Sainsbury's as grocery sales suffer decline over past year

By John Mulgrew

Sainsbury's has seen its share of the grocery market in Northern Ireland slip, new figures have shown.

The latest Kantar Worldpanel results for supermarkets here showed the retailer, which has 13 stores here, saw its share of the market drop from 17.7% to 17.3% in the 52 weeks to March 27.

Meanwhile, while still only having around 5.3% of the grocery market here, Lidl - which has 38 stores - increased its market share marginally.

Tesco remains Northern Ireland's largest supermarket, and saw that share grow once again. It now has 34.8% of the overall market.

Tesco now operates around 50 stores right across Northern Ireland.

Meanwhile, Asda saw its share drop slightly, year-on-year. It now has the same consumer spend as rival Sainsbury's.

Sainsbury's itself is also making major changes, following its takeover of Argos.

Argos is opening two new stores - with another two relocating - as Sainsbury's gets to grips with its latest acquisition.

However, the company, which has 700 employees here, is shutting its Portadown branch in July and relocating staff to shops in Craigavon and Armagh. It is also opening new locations in Forestside Shopping Centre, in south Belfast, and Carrickfergus Sainsbury's, and relocating in Bangor and Ballymena.

Sainsbury's acquired Home Retail Group, which owned Argos, in a £1.4bn deal last year.

The roll-out of the new branches will include the launch of Argos concessions inside Sainsbury's supermarkets.

The firm described the opening of the Forestside location, which has recently launched at the former Sainsbury's off-licence, as its first 'digital store' in Northern Ireland.

The move is part of a £2.5m investment in the shopping centre by Sainsbury's.

Across Northern Ireland, retail footfall fell by nearly 4% during March, the second month in a row which has experienced a steep drop. Research company Springboard said that footfall had declined across all retail destinations - from high streets to retail parks and shopping centres - indicating that many people held back from all forms of shopping activity during the month.

Overall, footfall was down 3.7%, and Springboard said a lacklustre economic performance could be a factor.

Meanwhile, the grocery market in the Republic of Ireland has slipped into deflation for the first time in almost two years, dropping 0.7% month-on-month to minus 0.2%.

That's according to the latest figures from Kantar Worldpanel in Ireland, published today for the 12 weeks ending March 26, 2017.

David Berry, director at Kantar Worldpanel, explained: "Only now are we starting to feel the effect of the weakened pound following the EU referendum as the price of British imports drops.

"For the first time since May 2015, grocery prices are falling so consumers are likely to have a little extra cash to hand, though this doesn't necessary mean they'll spend more in store.

"Many will see the break from inflation as a chance to cut down their grocery costs and pocket the savings instead."

Supervalu regained the title of the Republic's largest grocer, having been pipped to the post by Dunnes Stores for the past two months.

Mr Berry added: "The battle to attract shoppers remains fierce as ever as Supervalu makes its way back to the number one spot.

"After two consecutive months at the top, Dunnes was unable to remain Ireland's largest supermarket for a third month with Supervalu finishing 0.3% ahead of the retailer."

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