Buoyant supermarket sales fend off Brexit blues

Buoyant supermarket sales fend off Brexit blues

Supermarket sales grew at their fastest rate for two-and-a-half years in the 12 weeks to 26 February, the latest Kantar data shows, with almost every major retailer enjoying a bump in sales.

The boost to the industry came despite inflation doubling since last month to 1.4% – a figure that analysts predict could rise further as the weaker pound increases the cost of imports.

Of the nine largest supermarkets, only Asda saw a decline year-on-year, with sales down 0.8% – but this figure, the smallest decline for the Walmart-owned brand since November 2014, was still a huge improvement. Asda’s sales were down 4.7% as recently as December.

Sainsbury’s and Tesco managed modest sales growth of 0.3% and 0.6% respectively, but Morrisons continued its turnaround under chief executive David Potts with growth of 2.6% – its fastest in five years, and above the overall industry figure of 2.3%. It was also the only one of the "big four" supermarkets to hold its market share, which remains at 10.6%.

The discounters, Aldi and Lidl enjoyed another period of double-digit growth, with Lidl overtaking its German rival as the fastest grower – 13% to Aldi’s 12.9%.

Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar Worldpanel, said that while post-Brexit inflation was starting to make itself felt, the picture was complicated.

He said: "Like-for-like inflation has doubled since last month to stand at 1.4% during the past 12 weeks. However, when placed in their longer-term context, these price increases are still fairly minimal.

"Staples such as butter, tea and fish all saw prices rise by more than 5% during the past 12 weeks, as fruit and vegetables – many of which are imported – also saw an uptick in price.  

"However, it’s important to point out that inflation is still far from universal, with prices actually falling across a number of categories including crisps, bacon and eggs. While consumers may be starting to feel a very slight pinch, increased inflation has led to overall market growth."

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