Belfast Telegraph

Easter eggs and hot cross buns fuel sales growth for top 10 grocers

Britons' taste for Easter eggs helped supermarket sales rise at their fastest rate since September 2013, figures show.

All 10 major grocers are in growth for the first time in three-and-a-half years, with the overall grocery market rising at 3.7% over the 12 weeks to April 23, Kantar Worldpanel said.

British shoppers bought 20 million packets of hot cross buns in one week alone and splashed out £325 million on Easter eggs, upping the average price they paid for an egg by 8.6% to £1.65.

Tesco returned to growth with sales up 1.9% to £7.26 billion over the quarter, although its market share fell to 27.5% from 28%, while Sainsbury's sales rose 1.7% to £4.25 billion, the biggest increase since June 2014, despite a drop in market share to 16.1%.

Sainsbury's positive quarterly sales figures come as it cautioned over "challenging" trading and ongoing price pressures, posting an 8.2% fall in annual profits.

Asda saw its market share fall to 15.6% from 16% even though sales rose to 0.8% to £4.1 billion, its first year-on-year sales increase since October 2014.

Morrisons was the fastest growing big four grocer, helped by its The Best line attracting more affluent shoppers, with sales up 2.2% to £2.76 billion, although its market share fell 0.2 percentage points to 10.4%.

Waitrose's market share was unchanged at 5.2% in the 12 weeks ended April 23, while sales climbed 3.1% to £1.36 billion.

Iceland, Aldi and Lidl all saw sales rise at 9.3%, 18.3% and 17.8%, with Aldi and Lidl achieving new record high markets shares of 6.9% and 5% respectively.

Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar Worldpanel, said: "All 10 major retailers are in growth for the first time in three-and-a-half years, when we last saw like-for-like grocery inflation as high as it is now.

"While prices do look set to rise further, the current inflation rate of 2.6% is still below the average level experienced by shoppers between 2010 and 2014."

Separate figures from Nielsen also show supermarkets enjoyed their best sales this year, even without the late Easter distortion.

Nielsen figures for the last eight-week period, to include last year's Easter found sales were up 2.8%, the highest growth this year.

Mike Watkins, Nielsen's UK head of retailer and business insight, said the data should counterbalance the recent "rather downbeat" stories about consumer spending in general.

He said: "Whilst consumers are more likely to be uncertain around spend, we don't expect a dramatic change in grocery shopping behaviour this year.

"As long as real incomes don't come under too much pressure and employment remains high, shoppers will begin to adapt to moderately rising grocery prices, albeit this could be by modifying how much they spend in other retail channels."