New grocery market research has shown that Lidl is topping the supermarket league with the highest performance of all multiples here last month compared to January 2019.
Kantar's Take Home Grocery Spend survey showed that the German retailer, which has almost 40 stores here, is NI's fastest growing grocer, gaining 0.2% of sales and increasing its share to 6.1% from 5.9% last January.
Sainsbury's and Asda fared worse, having seen sales drop by 1.3% and 2.6% respectively, while Tesco's sales increased by 1.7%.
Tesco, which has over 50 stores in Northern Ireland, still has the largest share of the grocery sector here with 35.7%.
Meanwhile NI's 'symbol' groups, which include the likes of Spar stores and Centra and Mace outlets, saw their sales grow by 0.5% compared to January 2019. They also boosted their share of the grocery market in NI from 7.9% to 8%.
Musgrave Group's multimillion pound investment in the convenience retail scene, which produced a number of new Centra stores around NI over the past two years, could have contributed to such growth.
Nigel Maxwell, sales director for SuperValu and Centra, says its investment "redfines convenience retail", telling the NI Chamber of Commerce's Ambition Magazine recently that it had refurbished 70% of its Centra stores.
"It's an ambitious programme but we have a concept that we know works and that us and our retail partners are happy to invest in."
Meanwhile Lidl has been heavily investing in its stores and associated CSR (corporate social responsibility) including mental health campaigns, healthy eating and eco-friendly drives. Deirdre Ryan, head of corporate social responsibility at Lidl Ireland & Northern Ireland, said recently: "Consumers are increasingly conscious of the products they buy. They consider sustainability and waste before they make a purchasing decision. We're constantly looking for ways to help consumers make sustainable purchases, without compromising on quality and value.
Summing up the grocery landscape, Matthew Botham, strategic insight director at Kantar, said: "The Northern Irish grocery market was unchanged during the 52 weeks to 26 January 2020 as overall growth stood at 0.0%.
"Volume sales have continued to decline and are now down 0.6% year on year.
"More frequent trips by shoppers and an average price rise of one pence per item failed to outweigh the impact of falling basket sizes, which dropped by 3.6%.
"Sales at Asda and Sainsbury's decreased this month by 2.6% and 1.3% respectively. Although basket sizes have continued to grow at Asda, bucking the market trend to rise by 2.2%, the retailer has seen fewer shoppers coming through its doors. Meanwhile at Sainsbury's, increases in shopper frequency by 3.1%, and pack price by 0.4%, were not enough to outweigh falling shopper numbers and basket sizes.
"Overall, Lidl was the best performing retailer. Tesco enjoyed the greatest increase in market share, up by 0.6 percentage points to 35.7%, the retailer's highest share for over four years. Tesco customers made an average of six more trips to the retailer this year, counteracting falling basket sizes."