Britain’s big four supermarkets continue to lose share to the hard discounters from Germany but J Sainsbury PLC’s (LON:SBRY) share is holding up well.

Latest market share data for the grocery sector published by market research firm Kantar revealed that Sainsbury’s sales fell by 0.1% in the 12 weeks to 8 September from the corresponding period of 2018.

That’s not great in absolute terms but compared to the performance of Tesco PLC (LON:TSCO), Wm Morrison Supermarkets PLC (LON:MRW) and Walmart-owned Asda, the mid-market grocery did OK.

Sector leader Tesco saw its sales fall 1.4% and its market share slide to 26.9%; Morrisons’ sales were down 2% and its share dipped to single digits at 9.9% while Asda’s sales were down by 1% and its share to 15.1%; Sainsbury’s share stands at 15.3%.

Aldi, with a share of 8.1%, is fast closing in on Morrisons, while fellow German-owned grocer Lidl, with a 6.0% share, has the Co-op (6.6%) in its sights. It is the first time Lidl has reached the 6% market share level in Britain, having moved above 5% in May 2017.

The Co-op, however, with its focus on smaller convenience stores, is not standing still; its sales were up 1.8% year-on-year with one-third of British households purchasing something from the mutual society over the last three months.

 

Ocado Group PLC (LON:OCDO), now thought of in the City as more of a technology firm than a grocer, nonetheless was the fastest-growing retailer, with sales up 12.7% year-on-year.

Ice cream, cheese and sparkling wine were all big sellers for the grocery delivery specialist.

Despite the fast growth, Ocado still only has a 1.4% share of the market, which is about two-thirds of the share enjoyed by frozen foods specialist, Iceland.

Sales growth makes a welcome return, helped by the late summer sun

There was some cheer for the sector as a whole, as year-on-year supermarket sales returned to growth, albeit on flat volumes; the value of sales was up 0.5% on a year earlier in the 12-week period.

Fraser McKevitt, the head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar, suggested that talk of stockpiling ahead of the Brexit deadline of 31 October may have been over-egged.

“In fact, households bought 0.9% fewer items during the past 12 weeks than they did last year,” McKevitt observed.

Grocery inflation now stands at 1.0% for the 12-week period ending 8 September 2019, Kantar reported.

Prices have been rising all year following a period of grocery price deflation that ran for 30 consecutive periods from September 2014 to December 2016.

Prices are rising fastest in markets such as crisps, canned fish and frozen fish while falling in canned cola, chilled fruit juices and instant coffee.