Belfast Telegraph

German giants cash in as store wars keep the pressure on our big four

By John-Paul Ford Rojas

Sainsbury's was the only one of Britain's big four supermarkets to grow sales in the last three months - but still saw its number two spot in the sector retaken by Asda, according to latest industry data.

Sales at Sainsbury's rose 0.1% compared to last year in the 12 weeks to August 16, although this was behind the wider sector's growth of 0.9%, with the pace set by discounters Aldi and Lidl.

The continued advance of the German-owned stores saw their market shares rise to 5.6% and 4.1% in the period, together accounting for nearly £1 in every £10 spent in the British grocery market, according to data from Kantar Worldpanel.

Asda, which has swapped second and third places with Sainsbury's in recent months, saw total sales fall 2.5% as its market share shrank to 16.6%, 0.6% lower than last year.

It comes after the Leeds-based grocer reported earlier this month that it had hit a "nadir" with a worst-ever quarterly like-for-like sales fall of 4.7% over the 11 weeks to June 30.

In the latest Kantar data, Sainsbury's sales growth was its first since March, but its market share was 0.1% lower at 16.4%.

Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar Worldpanel, said Asda's greater focus on non-food items meant its share was traditionally higher in the summer and Sainsbury's should regain the number two spot around Christmas.

Tesco, Britain's biggest supermarket, saw sales fall 0.9% as its market share fell by 0.5% to 28.3%.

The Kantar report said buoyant growth in its convenience stores and online had not been enough to offset lower revenues.

Sales at Bradford-based Morrisons slipped 1.1% as its portion of the sector dipped by 0.2% to 10.8%. Kantar said it reflected a tough comparison with last year when a widespread voucher promotion was in place.

Elsewhere, Iceland's attempts to create a more premium image for frozen food helped sales rise 3.4%, while at Waitrose, a "Pick Your Own Offers" promotion saw growth of 3.7%.

Aldi saw sales rise 18% and Lidl picked up by 12.8%, but the performance of the larger chains held back the wider sector to 0.9%.

Mr McKevitt said: "Industry growth of around or below 1% has now persisted since summer 2014 and has become the new normal.

"Despite the accelerating British economy, like-for-like grocery prices are still falling, with a representative basket of everyday items now 1.7% cheaper than 2014."

The latest figures show Tesco's market share hit its lowest level for more than a decade, reaching a level not seen since December 2004.

Its market share hit a 10-year low in March and April, when it slumped to 28.4%, edging slightly higher in the following months before falling back again in July and August as the retailer lost out to its discount rivals.

Analysts at Jefferies cautioned that Tesco may see further sales pressure when its popular fuel save promotion, offering customers discounts at its petrol pumps, comes to an end later this month.

Belfast Telegraph