Advertising surge by UK supermarkets leads to strong Christmas sales

Contact: Neil Beston, Tel: 020 3103 3959

LONDON – 16 January 2013 – A large increase in TV and press advertising spend resulted in a strong finish to 2012 for the UK’s leading supermarkets.

According to the latest retailer performance figures released today by global information and insights company Nielsen, aggregate sales growth for the UK’s leading supermarkets during the four weeks ending 5 January 2013 was up +3.7%* year on year.  For the previous four-week period (ending 8 December 2012), year-on-year sales value growth was +1.3%*.

Unit sales (volume) increased +0.5%* year-on-year – compared to -0.5%* year-on-year decline for the previous four weeks.

Explaining the figures, Nielsen’s UK head of retailer insight Mike Watkins, “This was a multi-channel Christmas.  Many shoppers planned an online grocery shop in the week before Christmas, followed by supermarket visits in the final few days for a big Christmas shop, last-minute indulgences and fresh foods.  With Christmas Day falling early in the following week, Friday 21 and Saturday 22 December were the most intense shopping days, accounting for 15% of all spend during the four weeks ending 5 January.  One in three shoppers shopped on both these days.  There were also local top-up shops at smaller and convenience stores pre- and post-New Year.”

Aldi was the fastest-growing supermarket in the four weeks ending 5 January – significantly outperforming the market with a sales growth of +37%, whilst Lidl +11.7% and Waitrose +9.3% also outperformed, consequently, gaining market share. The battle between the top four supermarkets intensified with Tesco just ahead of the pack, growing sales by +5.6%, closely followed by Sainsbury with sales up +5.1%.

Whilst digital media now plays an important role in shaping consumer behaviour and retailer reactions, traditional media is still the powerhouse over Christmas. TV and press spend during the four weeks ending 5 January was up by 23%** over the same period a year ago. Tesco was the highest spending supermarket on TV and press FMCG advertising this Christmas, spending £8.4m in the  four weeks ending 5 January – 29% more than during the same period last year – ahead of Asda with £8.2m, Sainsbury £5.7m and Morrisons £5.5m**.

However, Waitrose had the biggest increase in spend, up by 56%, narrowly ahead of Aldi up 52% – although Aldi (£4.8m) spent over twice that of Waitrose (£2.2m) to support a similar market share.

Commenting on Tesco’s performance, Watkins says, “This year’s turning point for Tesco was the London 2012 Olympics, and this momentum continued through to the end of the year. With shoppers under financial pressure, but still wishing to celebrate Christmas and New Year, the challenge for all retailers was to deliver value for money and engage more effectively with the cautious consumer. Advertising and promotions played a key role in attracting shoppers and encouraging them to spend at Tesco.”

He continues: “We see savvy shopping being the key trend in 2013 with consumers shopping around and looking for the best offers. Therefore, retailers will still need to use promotions and coupons to help drive store footfall.  In an increasingly disloyal environment, the battle for the hearts and wallets of shoppers will be top of mind for retailers and brand owners alike.”

*Source: Nielsen Scantrack Grocery Multiples
**Source: Nielsen Ad Dynamix

12-Weekly % Share of grocery market spend by retailer and value sales % change
% share, 12 weeks
to 5 Jan 2013
% share, 12 weeks
to 7 Jan 2012
% value change vs same
12 Weeks Year Ago
TESCO 28.6% 28.6% 3.8%
ASDA 16.6% 17.1% 1.2%
SAINSBURY 16.1% 16.2% 3.4%
MORRISONS 11.0% 11.4% 0.2%
CO-OPERATIVE 6.5% 6.5% 2.8%
WAITROSE 4.3% 4.1% 9.3%
M&S 3.9% 3.9% 4.4%
ALDI 2.8% 2.1% 37.6%
LIDL 2.0% 1.9% 8.8%
ICELAND   2.0% 2.0% 5.1%

The figures in the table are based on 12 weeks sales through to 5 January 2013 compared with the same 12 week period ending in 2012.  Source: Nielsen Total Till, Nielsen Homescan

About Nielsen Homescan Total Till:
Unless otherwise stated, data is based on all purchases, bar-coded and non bar-coded, brought back into the home from any outlet by an in-home scanning panel of more than 14,500 households. Total spend includes all items stocked by any outlet, including grocery, general merchandise and clothing.

About Nielsen
Nielsen Holdings N.V. (NYSE: NLSN) is a global information and measurement company with leading market positions in marketing and consumer information, television and other media measurement, online intelligence, mobile measurement, trade shows and related properties. Nielsen has a presence in approximately 100 countries, with headquarters in New York, USA and Diemen, the Netherlands. For more information, visit