The turmoil seen within the grocery market last year shows little sign of abating as we move into 2010.
The latest information from TNS Worldpanel covering the Christmas period shows how consumers are benefiting from lower prices and are actively looking to cut back their grocery spending. The 12-week period to 27 December saw the value of the grocery market drop to €2.1bn, a fall of 6%. This places the value of the market below the level seen in Christmas 2007.
Among the major retailers, the only growth in sales when compared to 2008 came from the German discounters Aldi and Lidl, with a 6% increase moving their market share from 7.3% up to 8.3%. However, this is below their peak market share of 8.9% achieved in September 2009. This points to a switch back among consumers to their favourite branded products in traditional retailers during the build up to Christmas.
Tesco maintained its number-one position in the grocery market with a clear lead over second-placed Dunnes Stores of almost three percentage points. While Tesco's sales continue to decline, the 4% drop is an improvement on its performance compared to the summer. This is likely to be in response to well-publicised price reductions, leading to a turnaround in its market share.
SuperValu has also outperformed the market during the Christmas period. Sales have declined but at a lower rate than the market overall, meaning that its share of the market has increased. A likely driver is SuperValu's continued spend on advertising.
Dunnes Stores has suffered over the Christmas period with a sharp decline in value sales. In the build up to Christmas 2008 Dunnes Stores benefited from a positive response to its Value Card-linked promotion. This gave consumers the chance to receive up to 25% of their spend returned through vouchers included in their Value Card mailing. This activity has not been repeated this year and has caused the decline in market share of more than one percentage point. On a positive point for Dunnes, the final weeks before Christmas saw a strong switch back among consumers to this seasonal favourite.
Superquinn has struggled throughout 2009 and this pattern continued through the Christmas period. While it retained similar levels of spend from each consumer at just under €340 over the 12 weeks, there were 46,000 fewer consumers through the door.
From a consumer perspective we continue to benefit from falling prices and actively seek ways to cut our spend on grocery products. The average household spent €1,355 on the market in the 12-week Christmas period, a drop of €139, or 9.3%. Of this 9.3% reduction we calculate that 5.9% is directly linked to a fall in the like-for-like price of products with the remainder due to consumers buying cheaper alternatives. This is through buying products on promotion or choosing cheaper alternatives such as retailer-own labels.
Over the Christmas period we have seen a slight reduction in one of 2009's big trends, that of cross-border shopping. The share Asda and Sainsbury's had among shoppers from the Republic stood at 2.8% in the four weeks to 27 December. This is a reduction on the peak level of 3.3% during September. It will be interesting to see if this is a cold-weather-related blip or if the slight increase in the value of sterling combined with VAT rate changes will lead to a longer-term trend.
David Berry is business group director at TNS Worldpanel. TNS Worldpanel's figures are based on a basket of more than 200 grocery categories and are not taken from total till receipts. Its figures include only those goods taken home by customers, and do not take into account convenience purchases