Tesco battered by more sales gloom

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Britain Earns Tesco

The middle grocery ground is a dangerous place to be these days. Just look at Tesco. Latest industry sales data reveals Tesco's market share has slumped further, slipping to 28.7% for the 12 weeks to 2 March. Some way from the 31.8% it clocked up just a few years ago. Aldi and Lidl are to blame, stealing sales from the embattled grocery giant.

As is, perhaps surprisingly, Waitrose. Why the extreme polarisation?

Treat yourself

Because if increasing amounts of cash-strapped British consumers are shopping regularly at Aldi and Lidl, some will top up occasionally at Waitrose for a treat. Not every Aldi or Lidl customer. But you can see the logic of some developing, possibly entrenched, sales behaviour - a win-win for Waitrose.

Morrisons is in a similar tight spot to Tesco. Too ordinary and not consistently cheap enough. Aldi's year-on-year growth rate has now accelerated to 33.5% meaning the retailer takes 4.3% of the market; Lidl held on to its record 3.2%, says Kantar.

Meanwhile Waitrose shrugged off the pressure from the German discounters with its highest ever market share of 5.0%. To make things worse, Lidl and Aldi are also attracting the pinched-but-not-poor middle classes, eager to sniff out a bargain when times are tight.

Every little...

Among the Big Four supermarkets, only Sainsbury's held its market share year-on-year at 17.0% says Kantar. "Tesco, Asda and Morrisons all recorded declines in share with Tesco and Morrisons also seeing a drop in actual sales."

When boss Clarke (his turnaround program is now into its 22nd month) took over the top job in March 2011, Tesco shares were selling at around 400p. As the time of writing today (12.30pm) Tesco shares were selling at 312p. A 22% fall.

Don't write off Tesco. It's digital online sales are growing fast. Like travel operators Thomas Cook and TUI, Tesco boss Philip Clarke is betting online is a big part of the future. Their convenience Metro stores are also sprouting quickly - less big store sales, more e-sales.

Does Tesco, then, represent a buying opportunity?