Sainsbury Joins Asda as Britain’s Second-Biggest Grocer

J Sainsbury Plc joined Wal-Mart Inc’s Asda as Britain’s second-largest grocer over the holiday period after being the only one of the U.K.’s four main supermarkets to resist the advance of discounters Aldi and Lidl.

Sainsbury’s market share in the 12 weeks to Jan. 5 was unchanged from a year earlier at 17.1 percent, while Asda’s fell to that level from 17.5 percent, researcher Kantar Worldpanel said today. Market leader Tesco Plc and William Morrison Supermarkets Plc also saw their share of spending drop.

Aldi and Lidl boosted sales over the crucial Christmas period, as did the more upscale Waitrose chain, reinforcing the polarization in shopping habits toward both the premium and budget ends of the market. That leaves the big four more reliant than ever on growth from online and convenience stores.

“Among the big four, only Sainsbury’s was able to resist the relentless pressure from the discounters and Waitrose,” Edward Garner, a director at Kantar Worldpanel, said in a statement.

Sainsbury’s market share overtook that of Asda in the shorter four-week period ended Jan. 5, Citigroup Inc. analysts said, citing Kantar data that is not publicly available.

Sainsbury last week reported a 0.2 percent increase in quarterly same-store sales, beating analyst estimates for an end to 35 straight periods of growth.

In the four-week data, Sainsbury sales rose 6.7 percent and its market share increased to 17.7 percent, overtaking Asda for the second time in four months, according to Citi.

Morrison, Tesco

Morrison, which has just started an online business and has fewer convenience stores than competitors, saw 12-week sales drop 1 percent and its market share decline to 11.5 percent from 12 percent a year earlier, Kantar said.

Morrison Chief Executive Officer Dalton Philips last week said consumers who shopped at Aldi and Lidl throughout the year had stuck with discounters this time, breaking a pattern of going back to traditional supermarkets for Christmas provisions.

Tesco’s 12-week sales were little changed and its market share fell to 29.6 percent from 30.4 percent. In the four weeks to Jan. 5, sales dropped 0.3 percent, according to Citi.

Aldi’s 12-week sales surged 29 percent, while Lidl recorded growth of 18 percent and Waitrose 6.4 percent.

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