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UK's top four supermarkets are all losing market share to these smaller rivals

Tom Belger
·Finance and policy reporter
File photos of Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury's and Morrisons supermarkets as the so-called Big Four supermarkets have slumped to the bottom of an annual ranking after disappointing customers with the quality of their food and ability to keep up with online rivals.
Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury's and Morrisons supermarkets all saw sales fall, according to Kantar. Photo: PA

Britain’s four biggest supermarkets have all seen their sales decline over the past year as they lose market share to smaller rivals, according to new figures from research firm Kantar.

Kantar said the grocery sector as a whole has grown 1%, a slight decrease on the growth rate last month. It highlighted “a backdrop of political uncertainty and a persistently wet autumn.”

Its latest report suggests total sales were up £262m to £26.93bn in the 12 weeks to 3 November compared to the same period a year earlier.

But the biggest players all appear to have lost ground as smaller rivals have caught up, with Ocado recording the fastest gains and Lidl, Aldi, and independent shops also growing fast.

The figures, based on the grocery habits of 30,000 demographically representative households, suggest Morrisons (MRW.L) saw the biggest slide in sales of the big four, down 1.7% to £2.7bn.

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The UK’s biggest supermarket Tesco (TSCO.L) saw sales drop 0.6%, but they were also down 0.2% at fellow giants Sainsbury’s (SBRY.L) and 1.2% at Asda.

“Slowing growth in the overall market meant the four largest retailers struggled to make gains,” said Kantar in its report published on Tuesday.

Meanwhile Ocado sales were up 13.5%, though it still only accounts for 1.4% of the market.

Aldi, now Britain’s fifth biggest supermarket, saw sales rise 6.7% while fellow discounter Lidl, the seventh largest, saw its sales grow 8.8%. The Co-op also saw 4.4% growth.

READ MORE: UK economy avoids recession but heads to worst growth in a decade

Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar, said £17m had been spent already on mince pies and £3m on Christmas puddings in the run-up to the festive season, a key time of year for retailers.

“It’s never too early to start thinking about Christmas, particularly for grocery retailers. With many supermarkets already unveiling their festive advertising campaigns, the starting gun has been fired on the race to be Christmas number one,” said McKevitt.

“It should come as no surprise to see the grocers jostling for position early – with the average household expected to spend more than £380 on groceries during December. In total, shoppers will spend nearly £11bn in that month alone, showing how it’s a crucial period for retailers.”