Waitrose sales growth flags end to 'recession panic'

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The Independent Online

Supermarket shoppers' "recession panic" could be coming to an end as research today showed strong quarterly growth for Waitrose while discounters lost momentum.

Waitrose grew 10.2 per cent in the 12 weeks to 9 August, well ahead of the grocery sector average of 5.6 per cent, according to the latest TNS Worldpanel figures.

The chain's performance was helped by its Essentials value range as well as the conversion of stores acquired as part of the Co-operative takeover of Somerfield.

Meanwhile the research showed discounters have had their growth curtailed, with Aldi up 8.1 per cent in the period, compared to the 26 per cent seen at the end of 2008.

TNS Worldpanel director Ed Garner said: "Our data shows that the new shoppers attracted to these outlets and their low prices have largely failed to convert to regular loyal customers.

"Taking the contrasting performances of Waitrose and the discounters together implies that 'recession panic' is abating as far as the grocery sector is concerned."

Meanwhile, Tesco saw a further small drop in its market share - from 31.2 per cent a year ago to 31 per cent - as its main rivals continued to show strong growth.

Morrisons' market share increased compared to last year to 11.4 per cent, with a 9.2 per cent growth in the period.

Asda and Sainsbury's also added to their market share in the period, reaching 17.2 per cent and 15.9 per cent respectively.

Waitrose grew its market share to 3.9 per cent, compared to 3.7 per cent last year, while Aldi edged up, to 3 per cent from 2.9 per cent.

Meanwhile separate research from Nielsen indicated sales growth for grocery chains slowed to 4 per cent year-on-year in the four weeks to August 8, the lowest figure in two years.

The firm said poor summer weather meant shoppers bought less seasonal food and drink, with the average number of visits to most major supermarkets down over the period compared with the same time last year.

Nielsen said while summer is usually a low point for discounting, retailers had maintained the heightened levels seen throughout the year.

Of the top four supermarkets, Tesco increased its level of promotion the most, to reach 36 per cent of sales by value compared with 33 per cent for the sector as a whole.