'Big Four' supermarkets 'pull back Christmas shoppers'

Britain's biggest supermarkets are expected to have fought back strongly in the battle for Christmas shoppers as sales momentum at rivals Aldi and Lidl slows.

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City analysts predict Tesco, Morrisons, Sainsbury's and Asda - the so-called big four - have all performed better than in previous years, when they have taken a hammering from the German upstarts.

Clive Black, of Shore Capital, said: "What will be more established as a trend to our minds is the better performance overall from the majors as a collective, with Tesco and Morrisons set to lead the way with possibly positive like-for-like sales whilst Sainsbury's will have Argos in tow - the former could be negative, the latter positive.

"Asda may just be showing signs of turning the corner after a tough 30 months."

Tesco is in recovery mode as boss Dave Lewis attempts a clean break with the shambolic reign of his predecessor Philip Clarke, while Morrisons is in the midst of a barnstorming turnaround under chief executive David Potts.

Asda, meanwhile, has had a torrid 2016, reeling off a series of shocking sales figures culminating in the departure of boss Andy Clarke.

Retail analyst Nick Bubb noted that trading performances have been reflected in share prices this year.

He said: "The Tesco and Morrisons share prices have done pretty well (up 38% and up 55% respectively), reflecting the recovery in their trading momentum, which has coincided with slowing momentum for Aldi and Lidl."

The German pair have in recent years notched up a series of record trading performances over the festive period, wiping the floor with the established players, and have continually seized market share from the majors.

But Mr Black said: "We think it (Christmas trading) will be a little less spectacular for Lidl in particular than the last few years as the chain has seen a big deterioration in sales momentum in recent months.

"For Aldi, it has had falling like-for-like sales in the UK for some time now, indeed Christmas 2015 was probably negative. Accordingly, it has a more favourable comparative than Lidl and so should come out a little better of the two.

"Both fascias continue to open stores apace and this new space is the driving force of their sales momentum."

Mr Black also expects Iceland and the Co-op to have had Christmas crackers, while upmarket favourite Waitrose may have run out of steam.

"Surprisingly, perhaps, the Co-op and Iceland may be amongst the stars of Christmas 2016. We also expect Marks & Spencer to do well overall although it has tough multi-year comparatives on a like-for-like basis. Waitrose may be losing a bit of puff," he added.