Lidl's Northern Ireland sales increase but Tesco still number one
Three-quarters of Northern Ireland's population shopped at Lidl in the last year as the German discount supermarket continues to grow sales here, new figures show.
Research from information company Kantar said the value of sales at the retailer, which has 39 stores in Northern Ireland, was up by 7.3% in the 52 weeks to April 21.
However, Lidl's market share remained in single figures at 5.9% - though that was up from 5.6% over the same period a year earlier.
Grocery giant Tesco remained Northern Ireland's biggest retailer, with a market share of 35.2% - the same level as a year earlier.
However, the company, which has around 50 stores here, managed to increase the value of its sales by 1.2%. Overall sales at all grocers were also up 1.4%.
Sainsbury's was in second position with its 17.3% market share, ahead of Asda at 17%. But while the value of sales at the 14 Sainsbury's stores in Northern Ireland stores was up 1.2%, sales at Asda, which has 17 stores, had inched up by only 0.7%.
Last month the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) decisively blocked a £12bn merger between the two, on the basis that it would restrict choice for the consumer and lead to higher prices.
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Douglas Faughnan, consumer insight director at Kantar, said: "Grocery sales in Northern Ireland increased by 1.4% over the 52 weeks to April 21, 2019 as higher prices continued to drive growth.
"Tesco, which now accounts for 35.2% of grocery retailing north of the border, has enjoyed sales growth of 1.3% over the past year.
"More than 94% of households shopped at a Tesco store in the past 12 months, demonstrating its firm hold on pole position in Northern Ireland."
Mr Faughnan said Sainsbury's had widened the gap on its proposed merger partner.
"Sainsbury's has extended the gap between itself and third position with growth of 1.2% driving the retailer to an overall share of 17.3% - ahead of Asda on 17.0%," he added.
"The number of households which visited Sainsbury's increased by 8.7% over the past year, generating additional sales worth £46.7m.
"While Asda has seen a decline in the overall volume of goods sold, this has partly been offset by higher prices and shoppers visiting stores more frequently.
"Volume sales were down 0.5% overall and, despite value sales growth of 0.7%, the retailer's market share fell by 0.1 of a percentage point."
Adding Lidl is still making progress, the Kantar director said: "The retailer continues to win share by encouraging shoppers to put more items in their basket each time they shop, with overall volume sales up 6.7%."
Last week Sainsbury's said it had notched up a rise in annual underlying profits in its annual results to £635m. But hefty charges, including a £46m hit from its failed bid to merge with Asda, knocked its bottom line.