Asda clings on to No 2 supermarket position

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Asda clung on to the coveted No 2 slot in the British supermarket sector during the past 12 weeks after the timing of Easter distorted overall industry growth, new figures showed yesterday.

J Sainsbury again chipped away at the gap with Asda, growing at more than twice the rate of its US-owned rival during the period. Research from TNS Worldpanel showed Asda's share of the grocery market during the three months to 26 March was 16.3 per cent against Sainsbury's 16 per cent.

The figures contrasted with data on Tuesday from a rival firm, AC Nielsen, that showed Sainsbury's had, in fact, overtaken Asda with a 15.3 per cent share to Asda's 15.2 per cent.

Analysts at Citigroup said the TNS data was at odds with Sainsbury's buoyant trading update last week, which showed a 5.3 per cent rise in like-for-like sales, because Sainsbury's had adjusted its trading to take account of this year's later Easter.

TNS figures showed that Tesco had again stretched its lead over its rivals with a market share of 30.6 per cent.