Reasons to be cheerful for supermarket heavyweights

Sainsbury's chief executive Mike Coupe.Sainsbury's chief executive Mike Coupe.
Sainsbury's chief executive Mike Coupe.
Sainsbury's has retained its place at the top of the supermarket league table even though it failed to gain market share, key industry data has revealed.

The chain was the only one of the UK’s 'big four' grocers to increase sales in the 12 weeks to 28 February, seeing overall spend rise by 0.5 per cent, year-on-year, according to market researcher Kantar Worldpanel.

The outcome represents the longest run of sales growth for any of the 'big four' since March 2013.

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Sainsbury’s maintained its market share at 16.8 per cent as Britain’s overall grocery market also grew at 0.5 per cent.

Tesco – the UK’s biggest supermarket operator with a 28.4 per cent slice of the market – steadied its falling sales despite the ongoing price war and grocery deflation.

The latest Kantar numbers indicate that the group’s overall sales fell by 0.8 per cent, halving last period’s decline of 1.6 per cent, after a renewed focus on price promotions helped stem the flow of shoppers leaving the retail giant.

Tesco’s positive run follows it closing around 50 stores in the last year.

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Morrisons’ cutting of stores since last year contributed to its sales falling by 3.2 per cent, year-on-year, and a dip in its market share to 10.6 per cent, from 11 per cent.

However, its online sales grew strongly, and the report predicts its forthcoming tie-up with Amazon could provide “another boost to the business”.

Sales in larger stores across the market fell by 2 per cent as consumers spent less per average trip in these shops, disproportionately affecting Asda, whose sales fell by 4 per cent and market share dropped to 16.2 per cent, from 17 per cent.

Waitrose, meanwhile, saw its sales nudge up 0.2 per cent, maintaining its 5.2 per cent share of the market for the third period in a row.

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The rise of the German-owned heavy discounters continued. Lidl’s sales grew by 18.9 per cent and Aldi’s by 15.1 per cent, compared with a year earlier. Collectively, they now command a 10 per cent share of the market.

Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar Worldpanel, said: “Despite prices continuing to decline, the combination of Valentine’s Day and consumers stocking up for an early Easter has boosted certain categories.”