Press Room

Year-on-year grocery sales decline for third consecutive month

For ninth time in 11 months, sales decline compared to same period a year earlier
Falling sales set to continue into Christmas – consumers to be the real winners

London – 21 November 2014 – Sales at the UK’s leading supermarkets declined compared to a year ago for the third consecutive month, according to the latest data from Nielsen.

Since Nielsen first reported the UK grocery market contracting in January 2014, year-on-year sales have declined nine out of the 11 four-week reporting periods.

Sales during the four weeks ending 8 November 2014 were down –0.9%¹ (in value) versus the same period a year ago. Sales volume dropped -1.2%.

“It’s been a bad year for the big four supermarkets and they enter the key Christmas trading period with sales growths much weaker than 12 months ago,” says Mike Watkins, Nielsen’s UK head of retailer and business insight. “Much of this has been put down to the discounters, who are gaining share fast, but it’s the needs and expectations of shoppers that have been changing – and some of the supermarkets simply haven’t adapted quickly enough.”

Nielsen projects that grocery sales for the final quarter of 2014 will be between -0.5% to -1.0% lower than a year ago. For the first time in a decade, Nielsen projects a decline in overall industry sales across a calendar year – from £146 billion in 2013 to £145 billion².

“The peak period will again be mid-December onwards and, assuming a similar pattern to last year, consumers will be the real winners, by shopping around for the best prices and potentially using a wider range of retailers, store formats and channels than last year,” predicts Watkins. “We expect online grocery sales to continue to grow significantly ahead of other channels and to account for 5% of all sales by the end of the year.”

On the individual supermarkets Watkins says: “Aldi (+21%) and Lidl (+23%) are maintaining their stellar growths and look set for another increase in market share in December, together with Waitrose (+6.9%). For all three, sales growths continue to be driven by new shoppers.”

TV and Press spend drops 12%

The leading supermarkets spent £34.6 million³ on TV and Press advertising during the four weeks ending 8 November – 12% less than a year ago. Tesco, traditionally one of the biggest investors in advertising, has reduced its spend 61% year-on-year to £2.9 million, the fourth lowest total among the top 10.

Watkins comments: “Asda, Aldi and Lidl were the three biggest spenders in the period, being the first to launch their main Christmas campaigns. Despite a 29% decline, Morrisons – who promoted the launch of Match & More and a £25 Christmas Bonus – were the fourth largest spender. The Big Four are now having to balance spending on media campaigns with the need to make price cuts in store to maintain sales momentum in the run up to Christmas.” 



All figures are from Nielsen Homescan Total Till unless otherwise stated

¹Source: Nielsen Scantrack Grocery Multiples
²Source: Nielsen Scantrack Total Store Read (Total Coverage)
³Source: Nielsen Ad Dynamix

About Nielsen Homescan Total Till

The Nielsen continuous 14,500 GB household panel is geo-demographically balanced and designed to measure household purchasing through a wide range of channels. It includes all food and drink and non-food spend (e.g. household, personal care, clothing, electrical, cards and stationery, toys, music, general merchandise, etc.) It represents the total amount paid (after all coupons and vouchers), found on the till receipt.

About Nielsen Scantrack

The Nielsen scanning service that measures total store sales every week by SKU for 15,000 shops across all food and drink trade channels in GB. This uses the actual EPOS data from retailers, thus, Scantrack is the most robust and reliable measure of FMCG sales and is integrated with Homescan for the key indicators of retailer and category performance. The total market measured is £140bn per annum. ‘Grocery Multiples’ is a defined sub-set of the major supermarkets that also includes all food sales from Marks and Spencer (but excludes Aldi and Lidl). The Grocery Multiples account for over £117bn of all GB food, drink and supermarket general merchandise sales.

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 and mobile measurement. Nielsen has a presence in approximately 100 countries, with headquarters in New York, USA and Diemen, the Netherlands.