Credit: Peter Barr/Flickr

Sainsbury's has overtaken Asda - but neither is exactly shining

The Co-operative is the largest grocer that's actually growing.

by Jack Torrance
Last Updated: 18 Nov 2015

Despite occasional signs of light and endless price cuts it seems Britain’s ‘Big Four’ supermarkets are all still struggling to grow. Latest data from analysts Kantar Worldpanel shows that neither Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda or Morrisons managed to rake in better sales in the 12 weeks to 19 July than in the same period last year.

Sales at Tesco, which has been struggling since announcing it had overstated its profits last September, dropped 0.6% - taking Britain’s biggest retailer’s market share down to just 28.5%. Its controversial decision to take sugary children’s drinks off the shelves, necessary or not, is unlikely to help matters - the small value to its brand will surely be outweighed by those who go elsewhere to make sure they can get their hit of Ribena.

Sainsbury’s got a small crumb of comfort from the data. It overtook Asda to become the second largest grocer (by revenues) in the period – but that’s mainly because the Walmart subsidiary’s sales were down a pretty severe 2.7%, compared to 0.3% at Sainsbury’s. Morrisons was the best performer of the big four, but even its sales were down 0.1%.

The largest retailer that showed signs of life was the Co-operative, whose sales were up a not-insignifcant 1%. Though the member-owned business has struggled in recent years after the near-collapse of its scandal-hit bank division, it’s been well-placed to take advantage of the changing habits of consumers, who are increasingly ditching out-of-town hypermarkets for convenience stores.

‘The Manchester-based grocer’s focus on its convenience offer has been rewarded with an increase in shopper numbers, which have risen by 133,000,’ said Fraser McKevitt, head of consumer and insight at Kantar Worldpanel. ‘While The Co-operative’s growth is slightly ahead of the market, its overall share of 6.3% has remained the same as last year.’

Discounters Aldi and Lidl continued their now-familiar ascent, growing 16.6% and 11.3% respectively, while Waitrose chalked up a further 3%. With competition like that, the Big Four will need to pull something special out of the hat if they want to regain their lost market share.

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