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Supermarkets see first sales growth in a year due to early Easter build-up

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Year-on-year sales volumes increase for fourth consecutive period

London, 10 April 2015. March saw the first annual rise for nearly a year in shopper spending at UK supermarkets, according to the latest data from global information and insights company Nielsen.

The value of sales during the four-week period ending 28 March 2015 was up +0.7%¹ versus the same period a year ago. This was primarily due to the Easter build-up occurring earlier this year than last year.

The last time sales value increased year-on-year was last Easter, when the date of the festival again happened to fall into a different reporting period – the four weeks ending 26 April 2014 (+5.4%). The last genuine year-on-year gain was the four weeks ending 4 January 2014 (+1.7%) – nearly 15 months ago.

“The momentum that has built ahead of the early Easter is certainly welcome news, but it masks the reality that the current trading environment is challenging for the supermarkets with people spending less on groceries than they used to,” says Nielsen’s UK head of retailer and business insight Mike Watkins. “Consumer spend continues to be impacted by a combination of record-low food inflation and supermarkets’ competitive pricing policies – good news for shoppers but not retailers, whose margins are continually under pressure. However, the outlook for the next three months is more positive than we’ve seen for some considerable time.”

Sales volume increased +1.5%¹ during the four weeks ending 28 March 2015 versus the same period a year ago – the fourth consecutive year-on-year increase. Food deflation stands at -0.9%².

Watkins notes: “Food deflation is having a particularly big impact in Dairy (sales values down -3.5%), Packaged Grocery (-2.5%) and Meat, Fish & Poultry (-1.6%).”

Bad month for the Big Four

During the 12 weeks ending 28 March, all of the big four supermarkets saw a decline in year-on-year sales. Asda was the worst performer (sales declined -1.7%) followed by Tesco (-1.1%).

All the other leading supermarkets, except Iceland, saw an increase in year-on-year sales, with M&S sales up +3.6%, helped by the earlier Mothering Sunday and the build up to Easter.

Aldi’s sales grew 17.9% year-on-year, and Lidl’s, 10.8% – consolidating their positions as the fifth and seventh largest supermarkets, respectively.

Lidl biggest spender on TV and Press advertising

In the four weeks ending 28 March 2015, Lidl spent the most on TV and press advertising (£5.9 million³) – 160% more than the same period last year – followed by Asda (£4.0 million) and Aldi (£3.5 million).

Watkins comments: “Aldi and Lidl have become the fifth and seventh biggest supermarkets partly due to their large ongoing investment in advertising. Not only do they consistently spend the most in relation to each percentage of market share they hold, their advertising has changed the perceptions and expectations of UK shoppers.”

All figures are from Nielsen Homescan Total Till unless otherwise stated
¹Source: Nielsen Scantrack Grocery Multiples
²Source: BRC-Nielsen SPI March
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 £145bn 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 £121bn 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. For more information, visit

More information

Alex Burmaster
Meteor Public Relations
Tel: 020 3544 3570
Mob: 0780 313 1144  

Neil Beston
PR Director, UK & Europe
Tel: 020 3103 3959
Mob: 07770 644136