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Big four grocers face 'unprecedented' competition, says Kantar

Published:  13 January, 2015

Christmas sales figures are neck-in-neck across the grocery market, according to Kantar's latest data, which shows the retailers are the closest they have ever been since the market research firm began keeping records 20 years ago.

Fraser McKevitt, the head of retail & consumer insight at Kantar, said in looking at the most recent figures, which cover the four weeks to January 4, 2015: "In growth terms there really isn't much to separate the big four, all within 0.5% of each other. Easily the tightest race since our records began in 1994."

The fierce competition within the supermarket sector is not without consequence, as a few executives of the big four retailers have experienced.  Philip Clarke, the previous chief executive of Tesco was forced out in July of last year. Today, it was announced Morrisons chief executive officer Dalton Philips was also asked to step down due to poor performance.

Although the festive period trading figures are an improvement, none are stellar, and the big four supermarkets are under immense pressure due to market share competition. This looks set to remain a major issue in the foreseeable future.  

McKevitt said despite the improvement in sales numbers, the focus on promotions to increase footfall has not changed. "Pressure on prices has not eased off though. Like-for-like deflation of 0.9% is another new record low," he said

In an attempt to attract more consumers, grocers continue to invest large sums into price promotion. "High levels of promotions are helping to bring those prices down, with more than 43% of money in the grocers now being spent on some kind of deal," said McKevitt.  

Consumers are the biggest winners and continue to accumulate savings over the past year. "Shoppers were the big winners at Christmas with cheaper grocery prices encouraging them to spend more at the tills," said Mckevitt.

Further he explained: "The average household spend slightly over £1,000 in the last 12 weeks, saving just £9 on groceries over last year.  Add up all those personal savings and the industry saw £230 million disappear in lower prices. "