Supermarket customers 'not flocking away' from the big four

The "big four" supermarkets continue to suffer falling sales but shoppers are not turning their backs on them entirely, new figures show.

Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury's and Morrisons continue to be under pressure with sales declining at each over the last quarter, although Tesco showed the smallest drop in sales of 1% in a sign it is stabilising in comparison to historic declines over the past two years, Kantar Worldpanel said.

The market was "essentially flat", posting value growth of just 0.1%, but the figures show consumers are sharing their spending around retailers rather than turning away from the big four.

Kantar Worldpanel director Edward Garner said: "While the big four are struggling to keep their market share what's clear is that consumers aren't flocking away from their stores - their combined shopper numbers have dropped only 0.2% in the latest 12 weeks.

"In fact, 94% of Aldi and Lidl shoppers still visit at least one of the four major retailers every four weeks.

"However, consumers' spend is increasingly being shared with other growing outlets which also include Waitrose, the Co-operative and Iceland and average household spend for the big four has dropped by 2.9%."

Sainsbury's 1.2% sales drop, which led to a drop in its market share to 16.2%, was driven by a decline in pack sales after the retailer shifted away from promotions to everyday price cuts.

Asda saw sales fall 5.1% on last year giving it a 15.8% share of the market.

Waitrose has achieved a record share of the grocery market of 5.3%, increasing sales by 2.1%, while The Co-operative has continued its recent strong run, posting sales growth of 3.3% for the second period in a row to achieve a market share of 6.2%.

Lidl and Aldi remain the fastest growing retailers, up 14.2% and 11.4% respectively, but Kantar Worldpanel said this was due to strong performance of their premium own-label brands as well as low prices.

Meanwhile, Nielsen reported the most encouraging UK supermarket sales figures in more than eight months, with the value of sales down just -0.1% compared with a year ago.

Mike Watkins, Nielsen's UK head of retailer and business insight, said: "With the proportion of shoppers switching to cheaper grocery brands to save money at a lowest-ever level, this indicates that initiatives to reduce prices permanently and run less promotions is resonating well with shoppers."

The amount of the average supermarket shopping bill that went on promotional items in the four-week period remained at the new seven-year low of 29%.

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