There are very few things the major retailers agree on these days, but talk to any senior retail exec and they will tell the same story of worsening trading conditions since the euphoria of the Royal Wedding and the accompanying hot weather.

Consumers tightening their belts, the rather gloomy weather and the absence of the World Cup have put a serious dampener on consumer spending. And this is playing havoc with retailers’ promotional strategies.

With average like-for-like sales growth hovering around the 1% mark, (ie below inflation) retailers are having to decide whether to increase promos in a bid to win market share or actually cut back to protect their own margin, given how flat the market is.

As a result there has been a fairly mixed picture in terms of deals across the major supermarkets over the last four weeks.

According to the latest research for The Grocer by Assosia, all the retailers bar Sainsbury’s increased the number of deals in the four weeks to 19 June compared with the previous four weeks. But although Asda was only offering six more deals in featured space over the period, it does seem to be meeting its pledge to return to EDLP, offering 11.7% fewer deals than in the same period a year ago.

Morrisons was also offering 11.3% fewer promotions than a year ago, although at 1,929 the number of deals in featured space in the last four weeks was up 9.42% on the previous month and meant that Morrisons was once again the supermarket with the most offers, having lost out to Sainsbury’s four weeks ago.

The most surprising move over the past four weeks, however, took place at Tesco. A massive 29.3% increase in deals compared with the previous four weeks resulted in Tesco overtaking Asda in featured deals up to 1,606 compared with 1,242 last month. A closer look at Tesco’s tactics reveals a major push on alcohol and impulse.

The number of deals in the BWS category was up to 61.4% over the past four weeks compared with the previous month, with big deals on Budweiser and Magners cider.

The number of cider and spirits deals in particular more than doubled. Cider deals went from 26 to 55 while spirits promos were up from 47 to 108. In impulse, big pushes on Coca-Cola, among others, meant that Tesco was offering 104 deals on soft drinks compared with just 32 in the preceding four weeks. Meanwhile Waitrose is heading towards the 1,000 mark with deals up 17.11% on last year to 924.

Published in The Grocer, 25 June 2011

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